Sunday, February 21, 2016

On The Compromise Of Giving Up

For this discussion, let's talk about two types of people, those who fight for their dreams and those who give up on them.  You are one of these people.  So am I.  There are others, those who prefer mayonnaise on hamburgers and those who prefer mustard but that's a different essay. 

Some people seem to get what they want with ease while the rest of us look on baffled that life didn't  throw a Buick at them to screw everything up.  For others, it seems no matter what we do, we can't get from dream to reality.  Think about how many famous actors you can name compared to how many there actually are.  You can probably name a few dozen actors but according to the Screen Actors Guild, the union for movie stars, there are currently something like 130,000 members.  Can you name 130,000 actors?  Now imagine how many actors aren't in the guild that you will never hear of.  Think of how many will give up when it gets too difficult to continue.  

Maybe this will resonate with you;  I have many interests and talents.  In time, I've pursued them with differing degrees of enthusiasm.  I dreamed of being an actor, a rock star, an brilliant author, an amazing doctor and painter and comedian and carpenter etc, etc blah, blah, blah.  But in each there was a point where it occurred to me to give up one and pursue another.  Because it got too hard, my expectations weren't being met, it was no longer fun, it took too much time or money to see it through and whatever else I used to justify it.  I found myself sitting among the debris of grand ideas none the wiser.  All because it occurred to me to give up. 

But why? 

If you pursue a dream you know it will take its own time and effort and it may not happen but you trudge on because there's a love for it inside you somewhere.  At least that's how it's supposed to be. 
This has come up in my life over and over.  I remember my father telling me "There's no such thing as Can't.  I don't ever want to hear that from you."  Why do I, and maybe you give up when we've been told again and again that we can be anything we want?  Why do I quit and fail when all my heroes are those who didn't quit and won?  Did I take nothing from their example? 
Quotes abound about life, the beatings you take and the need to push through to get to the other side.   Here's one I like from the recently departed Harper Lee from her juggernaut, To Kill A Mockingbird: 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what. You rarely win, but sometimes you do.”

That's really profound because no matter what thing you begin you are always already beaten.  At first.  Everything new has a learning curve and you start from zero and run.  No one dreams of the intense practice it takes to become a professional musician.  They dream of playing the great stages of the world with thousands of adoring fans and maybe a Ferrari.   No actor dreams of the thousands of fruitless auditions and frustrating classes.  They dream of accepting an Oscar and maybe a Ferrari.  No gymnast or dancer dreams of aching burning limbs.  They dream of the grace that befits the best of their profession. And maybe eating an actual full meal.  

Is that what true passion is?  Maybe it isn't doing the things you love because they are easy.  Maybe it's doing the things you love despite the fact they are hard.  Because when these people are at their breaking point when all they want is a warm blanket and a long nap, they don't quit, they remember their love of the result.  If you try you may fail but you may not.  The only thing you guarantee by hitting the pillow is making sure you fail.  

Here's another quote from Dorothy Parker, poet and satirist;

"I hate writing.  I love having written."

That's a sweet bit of perspective that applies to everything anyone has ever tried ever.  Go ahead, apply it to your circumstance.  I hate (insert thing you hate about what you love).  But I love having (insert thing you love). See what she means? 

Here's another quite from another recently departed hero of mine, Lemmy Ian Kilmister, musician who recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of the band he started, Motorhead (not everyone's cup o'joe) who said some years ago; 

"I played in the same horrible band for sixteen years thinking no one is gonna wanna see us but people keep cueing up.  The easy way to survive is you don't give up, right?  It's just as simple as that.  I never considered giving up."

And there it is;  Never consider giving up.  So I thought about my experience, my father and his constant pounding about "No such thing as can't" and how it sounded so stupid.  Then it hit me:  Whenever I got frustrated with anything he'd get more frustrated, push me out of the way and finish it himself.  He never let me just trudge through the hard part.  I never experienced the rush of solving it for myself, of seeing it through because he taught me to always consider giving up.  This hit me like someone dropped an airplane on my head.  I needed a nap.

 If this is all making sense so far then imagine what your life could be if you never considered the possibility of giving up.  Oft stated as, "There is no Plan B" which is easy to dismiss when dinner is Ramen Noodles yet again.  However, look at your heroes and you'll probably find that somewhere in an interview, they never considered giving up.  Every single one of them suffered some catastrophic set back.  Every one of them woke up one day asking themselves why they are putting themselves through all this pain when nothing comes of it.  

The answer for them, me and you is simple; because giving up means absolute failure - you will never get there from here.  

Here is my challenge to you, fellow traveler, dreamer and quest companion; when it gets too hard, when you're ready to try something else or walk away remember three things; Why you started this in the first place (what you love),  what could happen if you took a breath and pushed on (what you've always dreamed of being) and most important for this discussion, pursue your dream with the simple mindset, I never considered the possibility of giving up.   Since I've programmed this into my noggin life has become markedly different.  

If you're currently struggling with the, "Why am I doing this?" syndrome, it gets better.  I promise. 


  1. I needed this today. Thank you Tom, as always you remind me there's light.

  2. I was sometime late last year. If it's truly a passion you can't leave it alone. Blood, sweat and tears. Otherwise we will hate ourselves later on....

    1. It's in the blood, isn't it? And the regret of waking away is always too great.