Stop everything and think about this

cool picture(Skip to the quote if you’re short on time)

So I’ve been using the thinking part of my brain and the talking part of my mouth recently, having those kinds of conversations with older people that make me wonder why I ever thought I knew anything in the first place.

One of those was with my former professor, who I now call by her first name and that’s a little weird. I don’t remember the exact words of the conversation, but I remember coming away from it, shocked to learn that there are many stages in life, and the fact that she is a professor right now doesn’t mean she will always be a professor and in fact she hadn’t even imagined she would ever become a professor.

To me, this was mind-blowing. For some reason, probably because I’m too intelligent, I imagined popping out of college and entering “career” or “dream job,” neither of which turned out to be true, and in fact I don’t even know what my dream job looks like. Understanding this stage in my life as part of something greater is extremely relieving, because that means I still have the chance to revive 30 Rock and write for it in 10-15 years.

On the note of life stages and the illusion of permanence, I read an incredible quote today, courtesy of Literary Jukebox. The quote is from someone I’d never heard of with an equally unknown book, which gives me hope that one day my words might inspire someone even if they’ve never heard of me. Debbie Millman in Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design writes

“I discovered these common, self imposed restrictions are rather insidious, though they start out simple enough. We begin by worrying we aren’t good enough, smart enough or talented enough to get what we want, then we voluntarily live in this paralyzing mental framework, rather than confront our own role in this paralysis […]

Every once in a while — often when we least expect it — we encounter someone more courageous, someone who choose to strive for that which (to us) seemed unrealistically unattainable, even elusive. And we marvel. We swoon. We gape. Often, we are in awe. I think we look at these people as lucky, when in fact, luck has nothing to do with it […]

If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

When I read this, I find it extremely challenging and convicting, and it reminds me of something that Stephen Elliott of The Daily Rumpus (and other) fame said once in one of his letters.

He said that people will never be surprised at your failure if you try to do something “impossible,” like make a movie, or publish a book, or travel around the world. In fact, they expect it. They’ll say “of course you couldn’t publish your book, of course you couldn’t make your movie, of course you couldn’t change jobs” etc. etc.

But the reality is that people are doing those things every day, and the only difference between them and me is the fact they’ve been pursuing their passion with a relentless fever, making the impossible happen for themselves and not listening to the consolation of others.

What does it take to be extraordinary? I’m not completely sure, but I know that part of it is steely tenacity. Today I resolve to be more tenacious.

(By the way, if you don’t read the site Brain Pickings, you should. A side-burn of Brain Pickings is the tumblr Literary Jukebox, which is also fantastic.)

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7 thoughts on “Stop everything and think about this

  1. […] Love” from, Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford in 2005, and Stop Everything and Think about This by yours […]

  2. trish-a-lish says:

    I love this. And it is SO true. A month ago I was certain, with that kind of irrepressible, all-consuming, reason-defying certainty that leaves room for nothing else, that I would never get a job or internship, that I would never find work doing something that I loved, and that I would spend the rest of my life as a waitress. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course!) That is – assuming I could GET a waitressing job. Ha.
    But I finally got fed up with my own negativity and made something happen. And, oddly enough, once you really start believing things will happen for you – as risky as that may seem in terms of setting yourself up for potentially heart-wrenching disappointment – they WILL start happening for you. We all have the power to make things happen for ourselves. Like you said, it’s just a matter of tenacity. And perseverance.

    I wrote a post that is related!! If a little sillier…. heheh

  3. Larry Spradling || Top Dallas Texas says:

    Reblogged this on Larry Spradling || TOP Dallas, Texas.

  4. Thank you for the awesome information! My mother always told me when I would complain why I could not do something, “argue for your limitations and they are yours.” I always hated that she said that, but it is true!

  5. Audrey says:

    Great quote and such good thoughts on this! I’m trying to keep myself in the habit of making bucket lists that target areas of my life to see growth in, even if they’re the big crazy dreams like traveling all over the place, writing a book, etc. And it’s been working! Having my list in front of me every day helps stay focused on living an incredible life, and even if those dreams don’t happen quite like I planned, I still have reached further and captured something greater than my mind said was possible.

    One of my favorite quotes:
    “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not rech them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ~ Louisa May Alcott

    So I really hope you can keep those incredible dreams in sight and keep reaching for them.

  6. The hard part with those messages is you need someone following you around repeating them. I do, anyway. It’s very true, but man it can be hard to keep that mentality when life never tires or bores of punching you in the face.

  7. Glad I read this and the Brain Pickings site is also worth reading…and the beat goes on…

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