The old me reared its fearful head just by reading the title of Dave McClure’s blog, “Late Bloomer, Not a Failure,” because that is how I had labelled myself. Success, and a very specific image of it, was an obsession and secretly I feared I was a failure who had made regrettable life choices. I knew I wasn’t and have been on a journey to have my mind meet my heart with that knowledge but it didn’t really change until a little over a year ago.
I live between two worlds which both have heavily skewed versions of reality: Hollywood and Silicon Valley. Both are in love with youth and with bling. Don’t let the hoodies of Palo Alto fool you. What this creates is also a false sense of success, since it is only measured by how others view you and what your buying powers are. I am not into the “everyone wins” mentality. Some people lose. But that is different from defining [monetary] success as being integral to your esteem or definition of self.
Few adults are where they thought they’d be in life — this article on how 4 Ridiculous Things About Being an Adult sums up how I entered adulthood — so defining your worth by being a successful Hollywood or Valley adult will have you reaching for the Prozac, Nurse Jackie style (seasons 1-3 at least).
Then, one day I reminded myself of two things. One, I chose this life. This type of success angst is a middle-class/upper middle class problem. I went to an Ivy League on scholarships; so I’m not dumb, at least in regards to the resume. I could have gone to top law schools and instead, became a dancer and pursued acting and writing. A who??! Yup. That’s how my parents reacted. No one forced me.
Why in the name of all that is good and holy did I choose constant instability? I remember working at Miramax where I thought I’d work my way up the studio ladder. An Oscar nominated executive producer in the next office had to drop her family vacation plans (or wedding anniversary plans) that she had planned long in advance due to some film responsibility that suddenly came up. I dropped out of the ladder soon afterwards. No matter the accolades or money, a studio exec was not the life for me if you had no upside in terms of freedom or family or personal life. My time, my choice what to do with it.
After I left Miramax, my parents no longer wondered why “The Jerk” was my favorite film. They had to doublecheck my birth certificate.
Second, I reminded myself of how people become successful in this industry. I am a biography nut, so I can point to several people (or I can point to this Cracked article that’s done it already, profiling 5 famous late bloomers (including Snape) who started their careers in or past their (gasp!) 40’s). Pursuing dreams, fires in bellies are not limited to the Justin Bieber crowd. Take heart, “Fifty Shades of Grey” readers, you can still go west.
Success is relative, especially in entertainment where projects get rejected/stalled for all sorts of reasons.
Success is too random to park your happiness hat on. It’s not about what others think of you but what you think and know of yourself. Are you living up to your highest standards? Are you tapping into your full potential? Do you know your priorities? Are you arranging your day’s schedules so that these priorities are met? Are you doing the best job you can in the job you have? What is being successful in your industry worth? You cannot have it all.
The author of the “late bloomer” blog casually mentions being married to a “good woman” and having two “wonderful children.” Throughout the article are peppered mentions of what sounds like many friends and colleagues, an academically outstanding childhood; happy marriage; healthy kids; a constant revenue stream; friends; a supportive and vast professional network and amazing opportunities despite not inventing google. Mr. McClure humbly admits he’s lucky and had fun in life, but by all accounts, those factors already qualify him as a success. At least, to a lay person he is. If you take off the Hollywood and Valley glasses, a clearer vision will be restored.