What If It Doesn’t Work?

When you say yes to your purpose and to your calling, there is no turning back. You stretch, you grow, you outgrow and you stretch some more but just like a teenager can't go back to being a toddler, a dreamer, once he or she turns pro, cannot go back.

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“What if it doesn’t work?” My brother / personal photographer / videographer asked after our 8th attempt to film a video that was integral to the launch of my book, Thank God It’s Monday. I paused in front of his apartment and looked at him, utterly frustrated, “Then we’re done. I can’t keep doing this.” I stated. Approximately 1.5 seconds later, I turned back around and murmured, “If it doesn’t work, we’ll try it again the next day.” I walked out.

Before that conversation, was a lot of optimism but after dealing with issues of lighting, sound, color, camera lenses, microphones, locations and so many tries to get out a message that was important to me, I was left deflated and frustrated.

Life is not convenient. Quitting is not an option. Going back is not an option.

When you say yes to your purpose and to your calling, there is no turning back. You stretch, you grow, you outgrow and you stretch some more but just like a teenager can’t go back to being a toddler, a dreamer, once he or she turns pro, cannot go back. Steven Pressfield, in his book, The War of Art, dives deeper into this theory but refers to the dreamer as an amateur.

The word amateur comes from the Latin root meaning “to love.” The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his “real” vocation. The professional loves it so much he dedicates his life to it. 

The issue however with loving something so wholeheartedly is that it becomes intertwined with the core of who you are. It becomes personal. Success and failure also become personal. You are their targets and whichever one you end up with, now gets to determine your worth as a human being. We put so much pressure on ourselves. We create this space where we feel the need to define ourselves by one thing. A job, a relationship, a dream. We forget that all things are flux. Relationships end, jobs end, dreams transform into other dreams. But, we remain.

The professional loves her work. She is invested in it wholeheartedly. But she does not forget that the work is not her. Her artistic self contains many works and many performances. Already the next is percolating inside her. The next will be better, and the one after that better still. —Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

We hear the words of William Edward Hickson time and time again, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again”. Our purpose in this journey is to try. We are here to experience all that life has to offer but how can we experience life if we don’t try. If it doesn’t work, try again. If it doesn’t work after that, try something else. Do not take “failure” or the obstacles that came before it personally. There’s more to you than one “defining” moment. I speak to people who are afraid of losing their jobs all the time. My question to them is, “have you given all that you can?” If their answer is yes, then I ask that they be at peace. To fear is to relinquish the power that’s been given to you to one fleeting life situation. To fear, is to disrespect your abilities and the core of who you are. To fear, is to limit yourself.

The professional cannot let himself take humiliation personally. Humiliation, like rejection and criticism, is the external reflection of internal Resistance. The professional endures adversity. He lets the bird shit splash down on his slicker, remembering that it comes cleans with a heavy-duty hosing. He himself, his creative center, cannot be buried, even beneath a mountain of guano. His core is bulletproof. Nothing can touch it unless he lets it. —Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

Become a professional at life. That means that you do the work and you trust in the work that you’re doing. You recognize that there will be challenges but that life isn’t here as an affront to you. You recognize that it will always be about the journey and who you become in the midst of that journey. If it doesn’t work, you still work. No life event, good or bad can take that away from you. Below is a short snippet of an interview with Oprah Winfrey right before her show became the phenomenon that it was. What it shows is faith in the self but also perseverance in not being defined by one moment.

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