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Just Do It

Tara DuncanSep 7, 2016, 3:53:53 AM

[Published on Facebook, January 20, 2016]  


I recently read an article which purports to tell you six harsh truths about yourself. It appeared to supply one "truth" in six parts, but it's a reasonable one at least. Loosely paraphrased, it says that people who want to do something, do it. The things in question should be considered achievable, in case you're mounting a counterpoint. So if you're not doing that thing you love, anything else is just rhetoric.  


This is in line with a conversation I had with a friend last year. I mentioned I knew someone who was trying to do/be something; but, while having done considerable research, was having difficulty getting started. The something is not really important. My friend said that our subject  was not in the process of doing anything, and would ultimately not be successful. Why? Because they were demonstrably doing nothing related to this activity. Painters paint. Writers write, etc. They do it because they want or need to do it. They don't stop if they're not good to start (nobody is), and gain competence or excellence through continued learning and practice. They read, take courses if necessary, but essentially they keep doing "the thing". This was incredibly simple, but somehow really memorable to me.  


Concurrent with this, I was speaking with another friend discussing someone who attended art school with her. Her friend is a self-professed "artist', who works in a crappy job and has some health issues. While she is fond of viewing art, being around artists, and talking about the merits of art, the one thing she doesn't do is produce anything artistic. She cites the aforementioned crappy job, health issues and the accompanying melancholy, as the reasons she is not engaged in this pursuit. My friend set about researching the minor health problems and making suggestions for what lifestyle changes would be helpful. They talked about art and possible art projects, and they went out to "artsy" things. Funny thing is, this artist doesn't draw anything. In fact, she is stumped about what TO draw.  


On hearing this my friend suggested they go out for an afternoon and sit in a coffee shop, where the artist could just look around and draw anything she saw. Guess what? This never happened.


Armed with my newfound knowledge I was able to predict this behaviour right at the start. Thus, even though the friend's suggestion was a great one, there was always something real or imagined that prevented it from happening. While the "artist" likes the concept of being in a creative profession, it is possible she only likes the idea of being an artist. Absent finding inspiration, will-power or talent, she will probably continue to stock shelves in her dead-end job.  


The other point my sage friend made relates to getting random things done. In this conversation I was mentioning there were several things I needed to do, but for one reason or another, had not gotten around to them. The answer (paraphrased) goes something like this: "Just do them. There are many things in life we don't want to do, but we're adults so we do them anyway. Why? Because that's what adults do." This may sound like an oversimplification, but it really should be that simple. Not knowing how to do something is another thing entirely, and may require additional effort. Doing things that are not glamorous or interesting, but nonetheless necessary, really comes down to compelling yourself to complete them. Reward yourself on completion of one crappy thing, by doing something you really like - if you're low on motivation.  


In the case of aspirations, life goals, the development of skills or artistic pursuits, there are many reasons why people don't make it out of the starting gate. They may have a myriad of personal or business obligations they feel take precedence, but even the busiest should be able to eke out a few minutes for things they love. Some might fear success - being locked into something for an eternity. Some might fear failure - the possibility of finding out they suck at their great aspirations. If they can continue to find irrelevant and trivial excuses, they can hold on to their "dreams" of one day being "this thing". 


If you're not on the way to realizing your "dream", perhaps the most important thing to consider is why you want to "be" this thing you don't do. Is it because you think it would be good for you, because your friends or parents value it, or because you, yourself, like or respect people with this skill or vocation? If you want to do, or be, something (for legitimate reasons), start doing it now. If you ultimately don't enjoy it, do something else. Don't worry about what others think about you, or what you think about yourself while you're honing your craft.  


Time passes regardless. If you are able to read this, you've probably missed your window to become a baby model or a child star. You may also have missed the opportunity to become a world-class gymnast, to learn 37 languages, or even to be married and divorced before the age of 30. There are still some opportunities left at any age, however, and while you battle the fourth dimension, you may have to hoof it to get where you want to go.   For a few practical examples of people who have presumably realized their goals or dreams, there's a Huffington Post article on the subject:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/24/never-late-change-careers_n_3460618.html   Some items, verbatim, include:

  • Ellen Degeneres was a paralegal and "oyster shucker."
  • Julia Child was a spy. The famed chef wasn't cooking up delicious French cuisines until age 36. Before that, she worked as a CIA intelligence officer.
  • Harrison Ford was a carpenter. After his performance in "American Graffiti," Ford gave up acting for the financial stability of carpentry. That is, until George Lucas came calling about a little movie called "Star Wars."
  • Elvis Costello was a computer programmer. The songwriter's singing may have made him famous, but his genius was by no means limited to just music. Costello first spent his days in an office operating an IBM 360.
  • Allen Ginsberg was a dishwasher. American beat poet Allen Ginsberg is best remembered for his bestselling poem, "Howl." But before he found success through writing, Ginsberg held a variety of odd jobs, working as a spot welder, night porter and cargo ship worker.
  • Sylvester Stallone was a deli-counter assistant and lion-cage cleaner.
  • Whoopi Goldberg put makeup on dead people. Before Whoopi's big break in 1985, Goldberg worked at a funeral parlor applying makeup to the deceased.
  • Brad Pitt was a limo driver. For strippers. Yep, Brad used to drive strippers to and from bachelor parties. Before this, he also dressed up as a giant chicken and stood outside of an "El Pollo Loco" restaurant waving to cars.
  • Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses sold potato chips. The American folk artist didn't even put paint to canvas until her 80s.