I don’t give a shit about talent. I give a shit about hard work and commitment.
I’ll never forget those words, spoken to me years ago in a small downtown Nashville bar. I was sitting across from the band coordinator for 3 Doors Down. It was lunch hour. Glasses clinked and silverware chimed as fifty conversations blended together in a cacophony of mealtime humdrum. Through a friend of a friend of a friend, I had scored a quick drink with this potential inside connection, and I hoped to pitch my music to him and get a foot in the door. To my chagrin, what I got was some solid business advice, albeit ill received. It would take many years until I fully grasped the profoundness of his words.
You see, prior to what I would call my period of enlightenment, I lived in this bubble, filled with jolly delusions of grandeur. I had suffered what I thought was my fair share of hardship and rejection. I was naturally gifted in writing and music. So by my calculations, I should have been naturally entitled, and well on my way, to lavish lifestyles and glorious fame. All I had to do was bump into the right person and send out enough demos, and surely someone would sign me to a big fat record deal, and I’d be on my way to entertaining the masses.
This dainty, halfwitted philosophy would ultimately end in an epic tantrum, with me flagrantly stomping out of our suburban Tennessee driveway and down the street in broad daylight, violently hurling about three to four hundred demo CD’s into the neighborhood dumpster, along with some other choice music equipment. It truly was a glorious sight to behold.
This experience became a catalyst for some explicitly ageless wisdom. And in my own inward journey toward spiritual growth, I have found it a notoriously hard pill to swallow, mainly because our automatic response to this particular philosophy involves some variation of well then, fuck my life; I might as well chug a bullet now and spare myself the torment.
But if you’ll trust me and read to the end, I promise to do my very best to polish this shit biscuit so hard that your mind will blow when you realize you’re actually holding a diamond. So take a deep breath, find Zen Mode, and get head on with this freight train. Be sure to watch for the unicorn shitting skittles at the end. Here goes.
We humans tend to live under this notion that doing enough good things, or enduring enough hardship, somehow entitles us to a faster, easier way to happiness and success. And here’s the thing: While I do believe in karma to some extent, I also believe that you, and only you, are ultimately responsible for whatever life you create for yourself.
Life owes you nothing. This world owes you nothing. You can take in stray dogs and feed neglected unicorns and clothe wanting children and sing in nursing homes and leave the very last cookie for the homeless hypoglycemic. You can suffer debilitating diseases and experience tragic deaths of loved ones and pass through numerous foster care homes and go through traumatic experiences and get thousands of doors slammed in your face. And you can still die bitter, miserable and old.
I know this sounds like shitty news. And, well, it’s proper shittastic news if you’re like most of us who routinely buy into the notion that your happiness has anything to do with external circumstances, good or bad. But here’s the rub: This common, disempowering thought process throws you right into the world of entitlement; a world where you believe that life should just drop happiness or cosmic romance or golden Easter eggs or your dream job or world travel or chocolate right into your special little lap. And as long as you even fractionally buy into this philosophy, you’re destined for disappointment.
My friends, if you want something in this life, you’ll have to commit, work hard and make shit happen. Your success is a direct result of creating a plan and going after it. Your stagnancy is a direct result of your lack of action. Don’t expect life to give you anything, and you won’t be disappointed when it doesn’t.
Did you know that Forever 21 founder Do Won Chang worked as a gas station clerk, a janitor and a coffee shop employee for three years before opening his first clothing store in 1984? Multi-millionaire Chris Gardner, whose life story was portrayed by Will Smith in The Pursuit Of Happyness, had an abusive childhood, was raised in foster care, and later dealt with homelessness WHILE raising a kid. Multi-media icon Oprah Winfrey endured multiple experiences of sexual abuse starting at age nine, and she spent most of her childhood in poverty and floating between different family members.
Google “rags to riches stories” if you want a hundred more examples like these. Or read the early bios of the likes of Guns N’ Roses, or Aerosmith, or Oasis if you want a taste of what real hardship on the way to success really looks like.
So yeah, life doesn’t owe you anything. And you don’t need it to. You don’t need money, or a free car, or a wealthy bloodline, or a famous family member. Hell, you don’t even need a house! Just ask Chris Gardner. You have the breath in your lungs, the brain in your skull, and the spirit within. These are the tools that make you a fucking gladiator.
Don’t wait on life to come find you and give you the keys to the kingdom. Go find life, and make some shit happen. Cheers.
Title Photo: “Gaur aka Indian Bison (Bos gaurus) – Everybody poops” by Heather Paul at https://www.flickr.com/photos/warriorwoman531/7694109206/.
Photo 2: “Shit Fountain Sculpture by Innes5 at s://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Shit_Fountain_sculpture.jpg
Photo 3: Grandpa Gustafson as played by Burgess Meredith in Grumpy Old Men.