When is it time to give up on your dreams?
After being in the entertainment industry for almost 2 decades, I’ve helped mentor a few beginners and one question that always pops up is, “When is it time to give up on your dreams?
Instead of repeating what I’ve learned in countless emails and discussions, I thought I would write this article. I truly want to help all of you dreamers continue to stay on the path to success. If you’re a creative and looking for some steps to help you achieve success a little quicker, then you’re reading the right article. This is not a get rich or famous quick scheme, this is a dream and create long, work smart path.
Long before I started my branded content company, CLING Creative, I came to Los Angeles in early 2001 with the same type of big dreams that most young want-to-be (I won’t use the term “wannabe”) actors, writers, directors, songwriters, singers, models, producers and gaffers (yes, lighting people dream too!) arrive to Tinseltown with. I had colossal aspirations to be the next big thing in TV, film and radio. I had a few hundred dollars to my name and a small following of pre-pubescent teens who followed songs of mine that were playing on Radio Disney and a TV show I hosted in the late 90’s.
Just like every naive kid that steps off the plane at LAX, or off the bus on Sunset, for the first time after moving to LA, I knew I was going to “make it.” There wasn’t a single doubt in my mind. I even still have an unopened envelope that I sealed shut, back in 1997, of all the dreams I was going to make a reality. I’m scared to open it. It most likely says how I want to be on the cover of Entertainment Weekly with Sinbad or Jason Priestley, make movies like Steven Spielberg and sing duets with Liza Minelli. Okay maybe not that last one, but I’d be down.
7 Steps to Achieving Your Creative Dreams
Let’s be real, when it comes to achieving a dream, it’s a long and tough road, but still feasible. I have countless friends who have achieved their lifelong dreams and here are 7 steps that can help you on your journey.
Step 1 to Achieving Your Dream - Define what your creative dream is.
Although the answer to achieving your creative dreams isn’t simple, there is an answer. There’s always an answer and when there’s not one, there’s not much you can do to change it of course, so there’s no need to worry about it. First, you must decide what your dream is. What do you absolutely love to do? We all know the quote “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a day in your life,” supposedly said by Mark Twain. Or Confucius or the pink-haired kid in BTS. Regardless, it’s a fairly true statement. But, not fully realistic if you love chewing bubblegum and doing nothing else. But guess what? Even that’s possible if you were to become a professional bubblegum tester! You need to find your hill though, before you can climb it. Matthew McConaughey says this in a very inspirational speech. So, once you decide what your hill or dream is, then comes the fun part!
Step 2 to Achieving Your Dream - Like Nike taught us… just do it!
If you don’t actually sit down and write that screenplay, trust me, it won’t get read. If you don’t pick up a camera and shoot something (anything!), you will not become a director and your singing voice isn’t fully being appreciated when only being sung into a back scrubber in the shower. So as the little wrinkly green guy says “Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.”
Step 3 to Achieving Your Dream - Hone your craft!
I can’t stress enough that honing your craft, studying it, practicing it (over and over) and knowing it like you know your own mind, is the best way to present yourself and prep for the next step of your creative journey.
Step 4 to Achieving Your Dream - Network, network and network.
Your network is your net worth. Truly and fully. Meet as many people as you can and let them know what you do. There are instances when the stars magically align and a creative person gets a huge break outside of their network or from just a few auditions, but the majority of those who find success and achieve their dream get it from someone they know helping them in some way or from a connection of some sort. Most people use someone or pass someone on that they know or trust, already in their network. So whether from networking on sites like LinkedIn or at networking events, get your network on!
Step 5 to Achieving Your Dream - Focus
The great Tyler Perry provides the perfect insight into how important focusing is. In his video, he gives an analogy about spreading seeds out into a garden. If you sprinkle a little bit of water all over the place, most likely the seeds won’t really grow too well, but if you concentrate on just one little seedling and give that seed all the water and attention it needs every day, you’ll see that seed grow and blossom. It’s a great lesson and one we need to constantly remind ourselves of. I’m guilty of trying to do too many creative things sometimes instead of just showing that one creative idea the attention. It’s easy to spread all of our ideas too thin, which in the long run makes those ideas suffer. So, focus on your best creative effort and don’t move onto the next one until you finish the current idea.
Step 6 to Achieving Your Dream - Persevere
Repeat after me: “Oh no, not I, I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I'll stay alive.” Okay, you don’t need to start belting out 70’s Disco hits, but you do need to continue moving forward in the face of constant rejection and trust me, you WILL be rejected. I know it sounds harsh and I’m sorry, but it’s a fact of being creative. Again there are exceptions, but very few creative success stories don’t involve a lot of rejection along the path to success. My friend and someone I’ve collaborated with on a few occasions, Sammy Hagar, is a prime example of someone who has constantly persevered throughout his career. The man does not stop and even at 70, he’s STILL going strong! Go Sammy! Your journey will be daunting, you may want to cry, burn that script, slap that casting director, go back to live in mom and dad’s basement (I’ve been there. Last month was tough. I’m kidding, it was 20 years ago, but hey I was there!), but if you’re ever going to achieve that dream, YOU. MUST. PERSEVERE.
Step 7 - Suffer the ups and downs and then answer the question, “When is it time to give up on my dreams?”
SO if you’ve tried every avenue, exhausted all of your hard-earned money, knocked on every door (I don’t think this is possible!) and you still haven’t found success, you may have to ask yourself, “When is it time to give up on my dreams?” Are you ready for the answer? It may surprise you… here it is: NEVER. Why give up on your dreams? Life is short, keep dreaming and keep chasing that dream. You just have to fit it into that “everyday” life that you may have found yourself in. Take a step back. Maybe your life isn’t as ordinary as it seems. For me, having my children laugh at my jokes makes me just as content as having a crowd laugh at them. Sounds corny, but it’s true. Maybe having a little house on the prairie and a few beautiful kids is “making it” to you now and that’s 100% amazing. But, for those of you that still have that fire deep inside, impending failure or what seems like never ending rejection doesn’t have to be the end of it. I have a friend who always wanted to be a singer, we met in Nashville in college. She was one of the best singers and songwriters I ever knew. She never found that success as a lead singer, BUT she did find a path as a background singer for some of the biggest names in music. So she’s still living her dream, but just used a different door to an adjacent dream. It’s living your “dream-ish.” I have another friend who is one of the top television composers. He does TV music although his dream was film music. There’s still time for him to carve out his true love of film music, but he has to do TV music to “pay the bills.” Even though most would say this person is hugely successful, which he is, his passion is film music, so he makes time to work on passion projects which give him the creative satisfaction he needs. Whether you put that book out with an independent publisher or find a way to get it to Penguin, hopefully you’re still living that dream.
“The best time to give up on your dreams is never.” - Zan Passante
I hope you’ve been inspired to keep working on your craft and your passion because life is too short to not pursue your dreams, define your purpose and keep on creating. You can do it, it may not be exactly what you started out to do, but hopefully it’s your dream or dream-ish! Good luck and go you!