Enjoy the Ride
Sunday March 2nd, 2014 was a great night for Matthew McConaughey. The actor won his first Academy Award for his gripping portrayal of Ron Woodruff in Dallas Buyer's Club.
What you didn't hear that night is how the project sat, unfunded for 12 years. How the budget was cut in half, from $8.2M to $3.4M. How the film was shot in a scant 4 weeks, in opposition to the requested 8.
At the end of it all, it could very likely have failed, as most films do. No one, not a single person knew going into the project, that they'd end up winning 4 Academy Awards that evening.
"The dots can only be connected looking backwards." - Steve Jobs
Like movies, life is an act of creation, fraught with risk and uncertainty. Our lives speeding ahead towards destinations unknown. What fun is a movie where you already know the ending?
An Uncertain Future
Our future defies prediction. As hard as we may work at something, we could still be denied our desired outcome. A + B may not in the end, equal C.
This reality may lead you to surrender control of your life to fate. After all, if the object of our affection can elude us, then why try? Why work hard at anything at all? Let life unfold on its own.
Ironically, the fact that our future escapes certainty does not render today less important. What we do right now may actually be the one thing that matters most - the part of our lives we can control.
Tomorrow is not guaranteed, but today is, and how you use it has very real consequences. Like a flashlight, our actions cast a bright beam into the darkness, illuminating tomorrow. Our hazy future, shaped by the steps we take today.
Embrace the Known
Many of us think of our lives in terms of goals - arbitrary events set forward in time. Targets to be obtained and experiences to tick off our todo list. I am suggesting that you lower your gaze from the mountain peak to the trail beneath your feet, and embrace today.
"Where you spend your days is how you spend your life." - Anne Dillard
Life happens in the everyday. At the office, the library, and the gym. If you love your day, you’ll love your life and the goal that so consumed you in the beginning may not matter at all.
Obsession with results wrongly replaces the act of becoming with the artificial promise of receiving.
If you achieve fame and fortune, that's gravy, but don't mistake the gravy for the meal. The frosting for the cake. As is often said, the journey is the reward and given the journey is all we have, you should be sure you’re having fun.
The idea that you can do something you don’t like, and become wildly successful, should seem non-sensical. In fact, even if you achieved material success, you would have sacrificed your life for it. It’s not a trade you’ll want to make.
Find joy in what you do and if joy escapes you, move on to an activity which ignites your soul. Loving the daily work is the essential ingredient to true success. The great philosopher Alan Watts explains why:
“If you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, which is to go on doing things you don’t like doing — which is stupid. Better to have a short life full of what you like doing, than a long life spent in a miserable way. And after all, if you do really like what you’re doing, it doesn’t matter what it is, you can eventually become a master at it. The only way to become a master of something is to be really with it and then you’ll be able to get a good fee for whatever it is.” - Alan Watts
The late entrepreneur Steve Jobs also spoke of the connection between passion and success:
“People say you have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing, and it’s totally true and the reason is because it’s so hard that if you don’t, any rational person would give up. It’s really hard and you have to do it over a sustained period of time so if you don't love it - If you're not having fun doing it, and you don't really love it, you're going to give up. And that's what happens to most people actually. If you look at the ones that ended up being successful in the eyes of society and the ones that didn't, oftentimes it's the ones who were successful loved what they did so they could persevere when it got really tough. The ones that didn’t love it quit, cause they are sane.” - Steve Jobs
Enjoy the Ride
It’s great to have goals - to have a sense of where you want to go and to be aware of the distant horizon, but don’t neglect the every day. Never trade off a guaranteed now for a maybe tomorrow. Spend your days loving what you do and enjoy the ride.