It’s the new year and for most people that means goal-setting time. Not me though, this whole season is too triggering for me to do anything that requires that much brain power and intentionality.
But what I do have in mind going into the new year is a small tidbit I heard a few months ago from Ira Glass, the creator and producer of a very successful podcast called This American Life.
To summarise the core point, he says, “The first couple years of you making stuff, it’s not so good… But your taste, the one that got you into the game is still killer and your taste is good enough that you can tell what you’re making is kind of a disappointment to you. A lot of people never get past that phase… they quit.”
Most of us are in that in-between period. The Gap. Or more commonly referred to as the period when we need to focus on The Grind which incidentally gave birth to one of the most insufferable movements on the internet in the form of Hustle Culture, with the leading Internet-Hustler-in-Chief being Gary Vaynerchuck.
But whether or not you subscribe to the ‘work hard, play hard’ tradition, there’s still a thread of truth running through the ideology.
When you begin something as a student, the ideas you hold in your mind about it tend to constitute the best of what you’ve seen. For example, if you want ot be a filmmaker, you probably made that decision based off of the blockbusters you watched as a kid. Those century defining epics like 2001: A Space Oddyssey and The Godfather.
But guess what? When you start out you will suck at it. Horribly. You obviously will not have anywhere near the millions needed to produce anything high quality and even if you did, you don’t have the required skills to pull off anything even half-decent, and that’s the harsh reality.
Another truth is that it could take years and years for you to start seeing any progress. Competency in anything is hard-won. That’s where most of us fall off. And there’s nothing like a new year to remind you how far you are from your big hairy audacious goals.
Before my eyes start twitching from all this self-help-motivation-speak, just remember that we’re all here together and there’s no one who’s gotten away with skipping these developmental stages in order to get to greatness. Except maybe Christopher Paolini who wrote the classic fantasy book ‘Eragon’ at the tender age of 15! But other than the few obscenely unfair examples, the fact remains that a majority of us are in this rat race for a good long while.
Rather than getting mired in what it even means to be successful and what you should do and also because I’m not a motivational speaker, I think the one thing to focus on, other than just generally being optimistic, is to enjoy the present.
Anyone who watches shonen anime will tell you about the ‘it’s the friends we made along the way’ trope. It usually involves the protagonist starting their journey to be the best ninja in their village or whatever and plots their path to what is at first a super crazy goal considering where they’re starting from. This is where the trope comes in. A big focus on those narratives is that the main character (at the end of 1000+ episodes sometimes) would not have made it even one step of the way without their friends. And those friends were not with them at the beginning. In their efforts to achieve the unachievable they met and formed close bonds with several people along the way and the reflection at the end of the narrative is that the goal itself would not even be worth it without those connections.
Connections. That’s what it’s about when all is said and done. And those connections really are made along the way. Not just for leveraging in terms of career progression but just for their sake. And this is the cheesiest thing I’ve written in a while but it’s something that needs to be repeated over and over again because daily life can make us forget.
As we bid January goodbye, pay attention to your friendships and nurture them. If you’re a resolution-setter, add it in. If you’re a workaholic like me, you need the reminder even more.
And guess what? Even if you never ‘make it’ (and that’s a reality we have to face; not all of us will achieve our big goals), you will still have made all those close relationships on your journey and they’re the spice of life.