I've come to find out that most people, unfortunately, are losers. They're not bad people or people that I don't like, but they are people that aren't able to see life through to make the most of it and be successful, however it is that they might define success (and the bullshit "make money" thing doesn't count as success).
When I started college in the Ashland University radio/TV department, Larry Hiner, the guy who was in charge of the TV stuff, told us at the department meeting that, "Most of you will graduate and sell sneakers for a living." Pretty grim forecast I thought, but I knew that wouldn't include me, so whatever. I didn't know at the time, but he was right about the future of most of the people in the room. I also didn't know that his motivation for saying that, whether a conscious decision or not, was to get us to be involved so we would create programming for "his" TV station. (For the record, the radio guy, Jay Pappas, had a much bigger ego, and was a complete wash-up and douche bag. Thank God that asshole was run out of the department.)
But Larry never went as far as to explain why people would end up selling sneakers. It wasn't because the broadcast industry was tough to get into, though it certainly was. The reason is that most people were pre-destined losers by their own choice. Talent didn't matter. If you didn't have the balls to stand up and chase the dream, then you weren't going to get there.
My motivation was that I loved the technology, though I'd realize later too that it was a childhood dream to be a radio DJ. A lot of people told me that I couldn't achieve my goals. Some very sad people even said my dreams were impractical. (Note to a certain person out there... sound familiar?) The fact that I went from "freshman of the year" (don't remember if it was radio or TV) to not getting so much as a handshake my senior year was a real kick in the nuts. By that time, I had already been working in commercial radio for a year, so I think I was "sneaker proof" at that point. I read about a young executive somewhere that said to let go of relationships that hold you back in your career and personal life, and my relationship with that department was certainly not benefiting me anymore.
A few months after graduation, I moved up to a larger market, bypassing the due paying I was told I had to do, and shortly thereafter I got the full-time gig. Was I any more talented than any of the people from school? I doubt it. I think my talent was working the system and not letting up until I got what I wanted. I once went into downtown Cleveland with a stack of resumes and tapes and went to every single station, uninvited and with no appointments. The station where I got past the receptionist was the one I'd eventually work at. Got lots of doors in my face and people telling me I couldn't do it, but I got there.
As it turns out, radio was not for me, but I got there, and I tried it. Government TV was a sweet gig after that, but the lure of the Internet called me away a few years later. Again, I had no experience, but fast-forward a few years and I wrote a book and can get work any day that I want. Again, my talent had less to do with it than my general persistence to get where I want to go. I know from the people I work with now that I'm certainly not smarter than any of them.
I'm writing this story because I've been talking to a couple of friends lately about their careers. One has been out in the world for awhile, and isn't getting anywhere because of unwillingness to reject roadblocks and press on. The other friend has barely begun a career, and fears that when things aren't going the way she expects, her life will suck. She's very much at a crossroads where she can accept the notion that she's chasing an impossible dream, a thought put in her head by someone who probably doesn't have the balls to really pursue their own dreams, or she can keep going after it until she gets somewhere she'd like.
The important thing to remember as you define success is that you aren't ever heading toward a destination. You sure as hell won't get to that ideal place overnight. That nonsense they tell you in high school about majoring in something and working in it after college is a silly fantasy. The cliche is true, that life is a journey without a destination (save for death). While you may have a well-defined ideal of where you'd like to go, that place might be little more than a rest stop as your needs and expectations evolve. As long as you don't let the world keep you down, you'll get to that spot, or some spot like it. Sometimes, you might end up in a place you never even thought of, and it's better than any of your original plans. Look at me, the happy programmer and entrepreneur who thought he'd own a radio station or something by now.
Just don't be a loser.