Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Dreaming Big

I discovered today that an ex-coworker of mine is leaving my former company to pursue her dreams on Broadway in New York. That really triggered something in me, a feeling of something new, exciting, and hopeful.

Now you all know me by now to be a square. That's because I
am a square. I tell it like it is. I don't believe in deluding yourself for mental masturbatory purposes. I believe that being honest to yourself saves yourself a lot of grief that comes with false expectations.

I'm all for dreaming big, but this new-age talk to yourself in the mirror and positive thinking is too much for me. I believe in the positive effects of yoga but feng-shui and zodiac/horoscope bullshit is too much for even my Chinese ass to accept. In fact, even this
always dream big stuff sometimes seems a little hokey to me. It's no offense to the people that believe in this stuff but I think it encourages our already retarded we're-entitled-to-our-dreams-I-want-a-medal-for-everything-that-I-do t-ball society. Yeah, I said it. What you gonna do about it?

I'm not hating. I'm just being real. Most of us are going to amount to being just average. We shouldn't propagate lofty dreams for people who aren't willing to work hard for those dreams. Nearly every single "overnight success" was a result of years of hard work. Justin Bieber? You think he just woke up one day and found Usher sitting at his bedside holding up a contract? No. I don't know his whole story but I know enough to know that he worked hard for years to get where he is now. Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, the list goes on. You know how many years Lil' Wayne has been rapping? Since 1991 at the tender age of 9 years old.

At the gym the other day, I had a similar conversation with my friend Ed. I asked him, "Do you believe everyone can be great at something?" He said, "Yes, everyone has attributes that make him/her better at something". Really? I would have been inclined to say that there being a gazillion people on this planet there are some people who aren't good at anything... to which Ed replied, "Sure there are lazy people out there, but if they exerted an effort even they'd find something they're good at".

Jaded much? Perhaps. I don't believe in a single religion or a fairy godmother.

That being said, I believe in there is a higher power and there is design to this thing we call life. I believe as we age the pressures of "real life" outweigh our desires to dream and sometimes these pressures usurp our dreams altogether. Yes, this is obvious. But for sake of flow and argument it is necessary I write that here so I can progress to my next body point...

I found a kernel in me the other day. No, not a piece of corn in the toilet. A kernel of perspective and visual beauty that I've been denying exists for a long time. I now believe there's something unique in my composition that renders me better to create beautiful images of women. There are a whole host of other attributes that allow this to come to fruition, like being good with computers, being anal-retentive, etc. but if I acknowledge that this kernel exists,
I could go all the way.

But, I've always given myself an out with this photography thing. I never thought I'd make it to be honest with you. I was given 2 years from the time I left my last job to make this is a viable living. I argued that college was 4 years and grad school was for me 3 years. What makes you think that I can make this thing work in 2? I had zero intention on turning a profit by the time the 2-year "grace period" had ended.

And yet it happened.

Yet to this day I still don't tell everyone that I'm a photographer. Especially not the older Asians who'd simply think I'd wasted all my higher level education on a
dream where the odds are stacked heavily against you. Asians are all about proven-rinse-and-repeatable game plans for making a living. Doctors, lawyers, accountants, consultants, and bankers. That's where the money/prestige's at for Asians. These professions also have very well-defined career paths starting from when you are in college.

But maybe it's because I don't believe enough. Perhaps it's not the environment's opposition but something internally that's been atrophying all these years. Between age 20 to 30, I bounced around from job-to-job; finance, operations, sales, consultant, etc. In that time I also found myself back in school getting 2 more degrees. Perhaps after all this time it's hard to imagine that I could actually stick with something long enough to make something of it?

My second grade teacher wrote on my progress report that I needed to be more self-confident. Meet me in person and you won't get that feeling. But she was right :) Ms. Davis who later became Mrs. Hennessey IIRC.

But seeds don't die. Once they're planted it's just a matter of time and proper conditions for that seed to sprout and grow. I found my kernel. Well, I didn't
find it, it was always there I just refused to acknowledge its existence. But the conscious affirmation of my unique set of abilities could just make all the difference in the world. It could mean the difference of being just another average photographer to being recognized around the world.

Is this the beginning of faith? Or the beginning of that little voice in your head that tells you you're going to make it even when all the odds are stacked against you? Is this what
always dreaming big is all about? I don't know. But I find myself constantly feeling reassured when I hear of others pursuing their dreams however lofty they might be. I find myself affirming my decisions based upon the life stories of the gifted actors on Bravo's Inside the Actor's Studio. And I find myself, however jaded, to always holding onto a little shred of hopeless optimism... one that says; we could go all the way.

Couldn't we? :)


  1. keep it up man... only way to know if you can get there is to try :o

  2. Howdy Charles,

    Being Asian myself (of the Vietnamese variety), I quite understand the pressures that come to bear through the collective family when one ventures out into these creative territories as a profession. I've always had a creative/ artistic bent to my personality and in the things I pursue, and I've also been told that it's a waste of time.

    "Go into business." "Be a doctor." "A dentist." "How about a lawyer?"

    It's the same of rigmarole.

    Perhaps I am also cynical, but I'm right with you about dreaming big. It's nice to follow your dreams, but I think you also have to be realistic about your goals. By all means, aim high, but take it one step at a time. A man doesn't wake up one day from being a couch potato and decide to sprint the 500 yard dash. If you he does, be sure the paramedics are standing by with a defibrillator.

    I've been really cherry about throwing my hat in the ring with photography because the odds are, as you said, pretty freakin' daunting. The turnover rate for photographers are in excess of 80 percent, and it seems a bit foolhardy to dive head-first into such an endeavor without there being a backup plan... maybe two backup plans.

  3. Hey Tommy, the turnover is deserved in a field as competitive as photography. That being said there are several other fields that are equally if not more competitive than photography... for example competitive sports.

    You hit the nail on the head though. One step at a time. It's never leaps and bounds. One step at a time. I went from being in the red for a long time, to finally being able to pay rent and then finally making a profit. It doesn't happen overnight. In fact it took nearly 2 years to just make enough to pay rent LOL!

    Backup plan? The backup plan for me is that I wind up shooting weddings. But I shudder at that thought... ;)