Did You Quit Before You Even Tried?

When I use the word “create” throughout my writing, I don’t mean it the way it is commonly used — from the aspect of being a creative artist, etc — but in a way where you bring into your life, the pieces you care about, whether that be creating a career, a friendship, or a company. I think this is a common mistake about “creating”.

Be honest: when you were a kid, you didn’t dream of becoming an 80-hour-a-week accountant, the under-appreciated receptionist, or an over-worked sales person. My bet is that you wanted to be an astronaut, a super hero, a rocket scientist; or if you were like me, you wanted to explore the world. And every time you thought about it, there was a little rush inside you. It excited you. It fired you up. You felt passionate.

Then somewhere along the way, your teachers, your parents, the media or most of society gave you an (un)“healthy dose of reality”, telling you that those dreams weren’t worth chasing. They told you that they wouldn't pay your bills, that they were too hard to achieve, or that they were down right silly. They told you to be smart and go get something more “sensible and secure”.

At first, it was easy to ignore them. Little six-year old you didn’t understand or care what they had to say. You had dreams and you gave yourself the right to chase them. You didn’t care when they said it wasn’t going to work or that it wouldn’t pay your bills. You knew what you wanted to do and why you wanted to do it – and that was enough. 

But somewhere between the hundredth and millionth time of being told it wasn’t possible, something began to change. You slowly started to believe they were right. You began believing that your dreams were simply that: outlandish and ridiculous dreams. You decided you were better off following the safe route. You convinced yourself that those dreams – your dreams – were the type of dreams saved for a select few “lucky enough to have all the cards fall in place” and unfortunately, you were not one of them.

The truth is, you are.

You simply let others convince you that you weren’t, before you gave yourself the chance to prove you were. You let others convince you that your dreams were dumb and unrealistic, long before you even tried to chase them. You opted for the safe road – the road that paid the bills and wouldn’t lead to failure – long before you even tried the road that may lead to a full heart. And slowly, bit by bit, you let your passion and excitement for your dreams extinguish, until it no longer bugged you that you weren’t chasing them.

But it should bug you. It should bug you a lot.

Here’s the thing: I’m not worried about what’s going to happen to you in the next 5 years of your life. I’m worried about what’s going to happen in the last 5 years – and the 70-some-odd years in between. Will you look back on your life and ask “why didn’t I at least try”, regretting it because the only answer you could muster is “because they told me not to”?

I don’t care what anyone says, in the world we live in there is no reason that at any age – 20, 25, or even 40 – you shouldn't try to make what you love, what you are passionate about, and what you care for, work for you. I’m not saying you should quit your job, throw everything you own away and run off to chase your passion, but don’t give up on it completely. Pursue it. Spend early mornings, evenings, weekends, or whenever else you can trying to make it work. Because when you do, bit by bit, that feeling you had as a kid – that passion you felt, that drive that told you you were alive – will start to come back. You’ll become one of those “lucky enough to have all the cards fall in place”.

So, ask yourself honestly: did you give up before you even tried? If you did, here’s four ways for you to get started again:

  1. Don’t wait until you know who you are to get started. Doing things you care about will teach you who you are. Not the other way around. Look at the things you create and ask yourself “why did I create this?” Then take those answers and use them to discover who you are.
  2. Understand why you are doing it. Your answer can be as simple as because it makes you happy. You can do it just to do it, because you care about it, and because it makes you feel alive. You don’t have to justify it to anyone but yourself. But whatever the reason, make sure you understand why.
  3. Start small. You don’t need to do it all at once. Find small increments of your passion that you can measure and bite off daily. If you want to write a novel, don’t think about writing the entire thing. Think about writing one page a day, everyday, for 365 days. At the end of the year, you will have your novel.
  4. Start first, then find momentum. This is simple, but difficult. Don’t worry about how it feels, how big you go, or even what you create when you start. All that matters is that you start. Start by creating whatever it is you think you care about and build from there. Tomorrow, do it again. And the day after, again. Keeping building on it ever day, moving in the direction you think you should. Before you know it, you’ll have some momentum. Then you can worry about refining where you are going and what you’re creating. But until then, just show up every day and start.

The trick to bringing all of this together is to let go of the outcome. Just create for the sake of creating. Start moving in the direction you think you should and do it because you know that when you figure it out, it will make you happy. Often, we get ahead of ourselves worrying about what others are going to think or what the exact end goal is, before we have even started. It becomes overwhelming and stops us in our tracks.

Don’t do that.

It’s completely okay to start without knowing where you will end up. Just focus on starting and learn to get comfortable figuring it out as you go. As you gain momentum, it will get easier to keep going and that’s when you can start working on the details. But in the beginning, just focus on showing up every day and creating. Your determination, paired with even your smallest efforts, will eventually lead you to the bigger things.

Oh, and you don’t have to go out and risk it all, trying to change the world; the odds are that’s not even your dream. Start small and focus on what you care about. But whatever you do, do chase your dream, because you should be the one to prove to yourself that you can’t do it – not anyone else.

The truth is, if you do try and prove to yourself that you aren’t capable, the odds are that you will find out that you are wrong.

And so were they, all along.

Why I wrote this: I’ve always made a purpose to get to know and understand what drives the people I meet, hang out with, and spend my time around. More and more, I’ve began to realize that many people aren’t doing what they care for in their day-to-day lives, not because of unfortunate circumstances, a lack of skill or anything like that, but because someone told them they couldn’t or should’t, and they believed it was truth, so they never tried. If they would have just tried, they would have realized that the others were wrong all along.