Legendary comedian Rodney Dangerfield worked hard to become famous and successful. But it wasn’t an easy journey. He worked tirelessly for years with little to no fanfare. He eventually gave up on his dreams during the early ’50s in lieu of a normal life as a husband and aluminum siding salesman, stating “When I quit doing comedy, I was the only one who knew.” Unfortunately, depression and a failing marriage took him down to rock bottom. But this sparked a new fire in Rodney, and he decided to pursue his dream once more—finally making his big break in the early ’70s on the Ed Sullivan Show.
Most people know Rodney Dangerfield as a funny, gray-haired, one-liner slinging old man. And that’s because he didn’t become famous until he was nearing his 50s. Now, how many people close to him do you think told him over the years to give up? I’m willing to bet it was quite a few. As he always said, he got no respect.
I bring him up as an example because many people in our lives put us down “kindly” when they think our dreams or goals are “stupid” or “farfetched.” And other than trying to be a famous rock star, working to become a successful comedian is one of those things people love to mock. But why?
Why is it so absurd for your friends or family to think you will make in an unusual profession? Is it because they don’t think you’re good enough? Are they worried you’ll waste your life on a fruitless endeavor? Or are they simply projecting their fears onto you?
It’s more than likely the last one. You see, we all grow up with an idea of where we want to be and who we want to be in life. But at some point we let fear and the opinions of others deflect us into another direction—a “safer” path in life. What should we do? Give up those dreams and become like everyone else? Again, why?
Why is being like everyone else so important? Most people aren’t happy. Most people have unfulfilling lives without purpose and life-sucking jobs that pay for the homes they barely spend any time in and vehicles they mainly use to get to and from work. Fuck that life!
We are meant to do more in this world than work for pennies on the dollar for some shithead CEO who has never met the majority of his or her employees. And while this doesn’t mean we all can or will become astronauts, singers, or famous writers if we really want it, it does mean we should at least give it a shot.
As Michael Jordan once said, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” This is completely true, and it goes back to why others tell you why you can’t or shouldn’t do something. They never took their shot. They played it safe, and in doing so made it so they couldn’t fail or succeed. Instead, they just drifted through life. Of course, some people find different meaning in their lives. Some people like their 9-5 job. They are content with how things are, and that’s fine—for them. But that doesn’t mean they have the right to deter you from pursuing your dreams.
You can’t help how others think of you. If they think you are stupid for going back to school in your 40s, giving another shot at becoming a painter, or doing endless rounds on the comedy circuit hoping to make it big, fuck em. It’s not their life. It’s yours, take control of it.
The majority of successful actors, writers, artists, musicians, and other people who chased their dreams had to deal with people who didn’t believe in them. But the difference between a Rodney Dangerfield and a failed comedian is persistence and resilience.
Whatever it is you want to do in life you must keep at it. If you fail, you must be resilient and come back. Learn from your mistakes and failures. Never give up. Ultimately, it’s your life and you get to choose how you live it.
We don’t all get an easy ride of things, but you can figure out how to make it work. It might take grueling work and superhuman willpower, but you can do it if you want. And if you still fail after putting everything you had into it, you can at least say you tried. Which is a hell of a lot better than playing it safe and choosing to drift through life in a miserable fog constantly dreaming “what if…”
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