Make Awesome Shit People Love

If only artist Dale Chihuly were more prudent, he could have become an accountant

Totday’s post is titled after the new motto of writer and happiness researcher Will Wilkinson, who is leaving a successful career and moving across country to pursue a dream. In announcing the move on his blog, he writes:

I think the most important thing I took away from all that time with my nose in happiness research and behavioral econ is that we overestimate the value of what we already have and so underestimate the upside of taking a chance, leaving something behind, and making a big change. Most of us end up where we are through a sort of drift. Sometimes that works out splendidly. And drift hasn’t not worked out for me. I really like what I do. But, alas, I don’t really love it.”

How many of us does this describe? Our lives, the result of an accumulation of unrelated choices, are nothing like anything we ever envisioned or planned. This isn’t necessarily bad, but is it what we want? Are our current lives what our younger selves would have chosen for their future?

Most of us arrive where we are for perfectly prudent reasons. Our mothers tell us, quite rightly, that our dreams of achieving greatness as an artist or a musician or whatever need to take a backseat to more practical considerations. We’re told “we need something to fall back on” and it’s true. Achieving the level of greatness necessary to make a good living doing something you love is no sure thing.

So we commit ourselves to building a safety net which often involves getting a responsible job with a reliable paycheck. The job then dictates major life decisions like where we live and even our professional ambitions. All of the sudden we’re working hard for a promotion to middle management.

No child ever dreams of being a middle manager. And yet here we are.

All is not lost. In fact, you’ve likely already achieved that objective of your wise mother’s counsel: something to fall back on. If you have an income, you obviously have a skill so valuable someone is willing to pay you for it. That’s a wonderfully liberating thing. Because now that you have “something to fall back on” there is no reason not to pursue your long-neglected dreams.

For Will, that means trying his hand at fiction writing.

I never wanted to be a pundit or a “public intellectual.” I always wanted to be an artist of some sort and I still want that. I want to make awesome shit people love. It’s my new motto: make awesome shit people love. So here we go!”

Indeed!

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10 Comments on “Make Awesome Shit People Love”

  1. Valerie April 17, 2012 at 10:40 am #

    Excellent post, Brian! Your own brother inspires me in this way every day because he has figured this out. He continues to work on his music while still holding down his “day job” and a few other ancillary jobs as well (game audio, teaching and SFX libraries).

    Great news! He’s been back in the studio for the past several months working on something quite a bit different from the last 2 CDs but equally awesome. No idea when it will be available, though….”creativity is a process” he tells me :-)

    • Brian April 17, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      That is good news. Can’t wait to hear the latest!

  2. Debbie Young April 17, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    I couldn’t agree more! I spent more years than I care to admit in a “safe” career before making the leap two years ago to splitting my time between a lovely part-time job for a really worthwhile charity (http://www.readathon.org), my own consultancy business helping new authors sell more of their books, blogging and writing to my heart’s content and taking more time to travel. It was a risky move but I have never regretted a moment of it – and I’m so glad I didn’t wait a moment longer. Go Will, go Brian, go Shannon – and your courage will inspire others to follow their hearts too.

    • Brian April 17, 2012 at 4:55 pm #

      Congratulations on taking a chance and making it work. And it’s true, so many people struggle with these decisions but then once its done, wonder why they waited so long.

  3. Sarah April 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    I found an opportunity earlier today to use the “no child ever dreams of being a middle manager” on a middle manager I know. That’s a good one. Love this post!

    • Brian April 17, 2012 at 4:47 pm #

      Rut-Ro. I intended that line to be a kick in my readers’ asses, hopefully to spur positive change. I never thought my readers would use it to kick other people’s asses. LOL

  4. Alice April 17, 2012 at 4:34 pm #

    I beg to disagree a little bit. I always loved playing office as a kid and I pounced on computers when they came out. It’s been a passion of mine ever since. I work as a technical writer from home and love it. So some kids *may* dream of being a middle manager or office worker and find it rewarding!

    • Brian April 17, 2012 at 4:53 pm #

      If I may disagree with your disagreement, “a technical writer from home” doesn’t sound like a middle manager, it sounds more like a technical writer who can work from home. ;-)

      But this is all obviously besides the point. If you love what you you do, regardless of what that is, then you’ve already arrived.

  5. Alice April 18, 2012 at 11:35 am #

    Thank you, I should have explained, I was a middle manager for over 20 years, “playing office”, getting to travel the world and responsible for a team of people writing technical standards. I now work from home. My point was, even being a middle manager can be satisfying. I think its more attitude toward work then the actual work.

  6. RedRoadDiaries May 13, 2012 at 8:22 am #

    Thanks for stopping by my blog..this post has some great thoughts best discussed over drinks around the campfire..oh that I had Chihuys talent

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