Sunday, January 27, 2019

Do You Feel Like You're Working Hard For No Reason?

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If people knew how hard I had to work to gain my mastery, it would not seem so wonderful at all.”  Michelangelo

Adventure 217: My buddy and me far from home in Africa..

     "Danny you should write your stories out." "You need a blog." "DANNY, your life is so cool.." (on the inside I'm rolling my eyes so hard and saying fuck off.. 
They only hear the adventures and they don't listen to HOW I got to this point.) I'm not ungrateful but I've noticed that what they see is a guy in a different country every other minute. They see a guy who worked on Frozen and had been a part of Disney Animation for nearly a decade. They call me brave, talented and different... Buying one way tickets and living out of a backpack for 3 years, Crossing seas and passing by lakes that he can't even pronounce. They project onto me this Indiana Jones character, or hell, for all I know maybe they see me as Julia Roberts in some Eat, Love, Pray bullshit.  Have you ever watched the film, 'The Fall* with Brad Pitt? Remember when he's off in the back of a caravan crossing some foreign desert on another continent with weird animal furs and women napping on him? I'm sure that's what a lot of people imagine me as, which sure... it sometimes has been like that but let me give you a peek of the not so glamorous side.

(I'm currently writing to you from the Nordics. Where it is -15 degrees and the snow looks like a million diamonds sparkling in the sun. It's a rare sunny day here and it's motivating me to be creative and write this post. I just had some oatmeal for breakfast and I have my coffee sitting next to my keyboard. It WOULD be pretty peaceful but I'm listening to "Mo Bamba" head banging as I type. Thanks for joining me here and reading this post.)

"Remember that every successful person or any person that is remotely happy is coasting off the momentum they have made."

    Take moment to read that again and let it sink in. Think of how a NASA rocket takes off. It has to use so much of it's fuel to escape the gravitational pull of the earth. Once it's gone though, it can virtually coast through space for the rest of it's journey. It's the same with people. An extreme example is an amateur athlete who trains like a spartan from years. After they win a gold medal or a championship, offers for endorsements, spokesperson contracts, merchandise deals, and other opportunities often come pouring in allowing them to slow down a bit and take advantage of the momentum they created earlier in their career.
    Likewise for any business minded person or profession, once you paid the price to establish yourself as an expert or a person of integrity who delivers high quality results on time, YOU WILL reap the benefits for the rest of your life. What does paying the price look like? It looks like spending countless hours working towards something shows no sign in getting closer. It looks like not getting paid for what you're worth and taking shitty deals. Sometimes you work for months will no real income. It is being scared, unsure and having tons of doubt but it never never never looks like giving up and staying still. You take all this and you keep moving... sometimes for years.

     I'm in the middle of this 'paying the price phase' right now for the second time in my life. "Wait.. What Danny? But you're set already aren't you?" (I literally "PFFFFF'ed" right now at my computer) Yes I'm in the middle of this again... and wait for it: BY CHOICE.) 

     Sure the first time I paid the price I was putting in the hours as a teenager. I was staying in my room, watching friends on TV and drawing day after day. Parties and hang out's? Once in a while yes I would be social but 80 percent of the time I was with my nose in my sketch book drawing my little heart out. During college, I was pulling all nighters when nobody told me I had to. Completing personal projects for no purpose other than to get it out of my system. I didn't know if it was good, but I did it. I read, I studied, I redid work, I was a machine. My thought to myself, If I am not practicing, someone somewhere is. The average Olympian trains four hours a day at least 310 days a year for six years before succeeding. Training works, but it isn't easy! You need to be willing to pay the price. 
       Even after arriving at Disney and Pixar, I would stay waaay beyond working hours diving into lectures and practicing my animation. Not because I felt my animation wasn't good enough, no. I was still 'training' because I knew my real goal still required me to learn. My real goal extended beyond Disney and Pixar.. I wanted to work for myself. I told myself, I'm not going to work on someone else's idea for the rest of my life. And that required not only learning about animation but diving in and learning inside out all the other parts of the Pixar7Disney studios. I remember I would email and ask Mark Andrews if I can sit in on the story internship critiques at Pixar and I would stay quiet and invisible in the back corner taking notes. I remember I would always go to the Art department in Disney and look at every concept design board and the notes written all over the work. I remember feeling so lucky when I fought tooth and nail to be given the chance to ask Miyazki HIMSELF a question on how he goes about organising his ideas and what was his process in picking ideas for films and scenes. Every thing I did was in the direction of a goal I had in my mind. If an action wasn't getting my a tiny step closer to my vision, I'd ask myself why I was doing it.
 
ME: Working hard or hardly working? 

      There was never a moment I felt I was ready to take my goal head on, but eventually I left the safety and comfort of Disney at the age of 27. I felt good with all the knowledge I had gained. Whatever came my way, I should be able to handle it right? I have seen the inner workings of one of the most successful company in history works. I've worked on billion dollar oscar winning films that have literally effected and changed a generation. But a reality check soon knocked me down with the force of a million hurricanes.

     "What is a business plan? How do I type an invoice? Did you word that contract correctly? Was I too modest and come off as an amateur when I should of been bold and sold myself better? Are you sure you're spending your money the right way? Did you just accidentally offend them as you were introducing yourself because you aren't aware of how the culture works in this country? Do you even know how the taxes work when you earn income from outside the USA?"

   OMG I have so many other examples of shit I went through these last three years.. The ones I typed above are just a few. So again I put in the work, I read, studied and typed and spend countless hours staying up all night learning. Most importantly I asked questions. I remember meeting a business investor in Nashville and after two drinks I kind of straight up asked, "What does an investor look for?" and for the next 3 months he helped me type  and revise 21 pages of business plans and other things.   

      The biggest thing to get what you want is to ask, ask ASK. You have to get use hearing the word 'no', you have to get use to getting ghosted and your emails receiving no responses. You have to get use to getting looked at funny, feeling like an idiot and just being in way over your head and out of your league. But it is paying off. Now I can say I'm set up with contracts with musicians and companies doing work on my own terms where I get creative freedom to do my ideas. I'll share all that if you'd like in another post. 

     Anything worth doing is worth doing badly in the beginning. Remember when you first learned to drive a car. to ride a bike, to play an instrument, or to play a sport. You understand in advance you were going to be very awkward at first. It's just part of the process. And this applies to everything! Children know the best that you have to give yourself permission to be silly. But sadly by the time we are adults, we're so afraid of making mistakes or if something doesn't workout, we don't allow ourselves to be awkward. So we don't learn, we don't succeed and we're so afraid of being wrong. 

We all had a first kiss... How awkward was that? if you could survive that, you can survive the hardships of chasing your dreams. 







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