I once had a teacher who was a very talented commercial artist. He always said, “All my students will surpass me.” We would say “NO! NO! You have so much talent-much more than any of us!”
But ol’ Butch knew what he was talking about. All his students did go on to great success, while he remained behind.
I went to visit him years later and found him living in an old trailer behind a junk yard. I just landed a huge contract which required me to put together a team of about ten artists. I offered him a leadership position on the gig and more money than he earned that entire year.
He was a no show his first day on the job.
We met later to talk about it. I had seen him sabotage himself like this many times before.
After a long talk, we finally got to the root of the problem. Butch was scared of success. He knew how to get by. He knew how to live on the streets, and how to survive, but he did not know the first thing about complex tax returns, 1099 forms or corporate culture. He was out of his comfort zone in that world, and it frightened him. I understood, and bid him goodbye with a small gift of 100 dollars to pay his rent.
It’s been many years since that last visit with my street wise instructor, and I have met many other travelers along the road of life who remind me of him. Women who remain in abusive relationships, because that life is all they know, or think they deserve. Children from broken homes who grow up engaging in a merry go round of dysfunctional dating relationships and reliving their past; People who have dreams of building a better life, but never take action, or quit half way into a job.
It’s a strange phenomenon in human psychology how people will gravitate to the familiar, even when they know the alley they walk is nothing but a dark and painful dead end.
In a recent television biography of horror writer Stephen King, the author recounted the story of his success. He said his father was a writer too, but never rose above mediocrity, even though his work was very good. King’s mother told the boy his father lacked “stick-to-it-ivness.” He would become so discouraged by rejection, he would just drop completed projects after one rejection and move on to something else. King made a promise to himself he would not make the same mistake. After a series of over 100 rejections, his perseverance paid off. The title of the book: Carrie. A work King himself says he “didn’t think was very good.”
We all know what happened after that.
I suppose we all fall into that trap of giving up from time to time, but as for me, I am taking my cues from King. I “will not go softly into that good night” because the achievement of dreams is too much of a miracle to miss.