What if it doesn’t work out?
What if you pour yourself into your thing (whatever that thing may be—relationship, writing a book, ending world hunger, etc), and it flops? Maybe it doesn’t flop, but it fizzles, or falls off the radar.
Would you do it anyway?
What if the success or recognition you wanted never came, at least not the way you think you want it to arrive? Would you still create that thing?
The reason I ask is because it’s very possible you will never receive the return on your efforts (the success/compensation/recognition/fame/Oscar) you might be dreaming of receiving for doing your thing. It’s a very real possibility.
It’s possible, or heck, even very likely, that you doing your thing might go totally unnoticed by the world at large. Your dear ones might be proud of you, but even their acknowledgment may slip off and fade like crayon sketches or witty magnets on the fridge that have been there so long, so quietly, that the eye becomes oblivious to their presence.
I want to know if you would do it anyway.
If you wanted to end hunger, or cure cancer, or create peace in this world, and you knew now that despite all your efforts, and all the headway you did make with your actions along the pathway of your life, that the issue still exists, would you keep on keeping on, doing what you can on your crusade? Or, would you shrug and throw it out as a bad idea, grateful you saved your energy?
(I might ask, just what exactly are you saving your energy for, at this point, if not for doing that thing you say you love or care about? What are you going to do with all this saved-up energy you didn’t waste on doing things you love and care about?)
“Don’t let the fear of the time it will take to accomplish something stand in the way of your doing it. The time will pass anyway; we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use.”
What if the result wasn’t the point? What if you couldn’t know it would work out? (By the way, we can’t know it will work out…)
Would you fall in love, knowing there was sure to be heartbreak at some point? (Because there inevitably will be.)
Would you plant a garden, knowing that the delicate flowers you nurtured would wither and die in front of your eyes? (Because they inevitably will.)
Would you have a child, knowing one day that sweet face would look at you in rage and say, “I hate you.” That one day, that warm loving body that so clamoured for your love and affection would pull away, a little bit at first, then more and more until you feel your heart rent in two as they grow up and away from you. (Because this really happens.)
Of course you would. You have. Because the experience is worth it. It’s all there is.
Look, I don’t know if it’ll work out, this thing you want to do, whatever it is. I don’t have a crystal ball. I don’t know if you’ll be able to quit your day job and make a living at it. Honestly, most people don’t. Then again, most people don’t try. But I do know that not doing it at all is a guaranteed way to never find out, and worse, to rob yourself of the experience of doing something you love, and the world of your gift.
History is rife with examples of people whose art and ideas were before their time. Thoreau, Kafka, Van Gogh. The list goes on. Emily Dickinson. But they went on doing their thing anyway, thank God.
If you’ve read all this and still think you don’t want to risk failing, or you don’t want to do your thing if you can’t quit your day job, then maybe you need to give up that thing. If you wouldn’t do it anyway, and the outcome is unforeseeable, then maybe it’s just not your thing.
If, however, you can’t imagine your life without doing/making that thing, and it brings you joy, and you’d do it just for fun, even if you never got paid for it, then keep it in your life.
And do it anyway.
True story: While I was finishing this article, Safari crashed Squarespace and I lost a whole bunch of what I’d written. I hadn’t saved it in 10 minutes of solid (and good) flow writing. It’s gone. Which sucks. Especially because I’d dismissed the notice that said it was likely to happen, due to a bug with Safari 9, so it wasn’t an unforeseeable disaster, but rather a likely disappointing outcome I basically created for myself.
I can’t remember what I wrote. It was good. But it’s gone. I’ve done my best to rewrite it. And I’ll post it. Anyway.