“Realistic” in the 21st century is otherwise defined as “being prepared to settle for the most negative outcome in your chosen path possible, and if by the smallest chance you do stumble upon an ounce of success, to realise that it will probably be short-lived anyway and in the long run won’t be worth the hassle so you should just quit now, save yourself the inevitable misery, and learn from everyone around you that what you want to achieve can’t be done”.
I don’t know why we do this to ourselves, but I’m willing to wager that we all allow views like these to go to bed with us at night. It is a human instinct to not be kind to ourselves; to let the little fuck (let’s call it that) take over from within and allow every seed of doubt to sprout.
The “little fuck” is a demonic embodiment of “the glass is half empty” school of thinking. It is our inner-cynic, inner-critic, and inner-prick: the nasty self that oozes out of us in moments of jealousy or uncertainty, insecurity or loathing. The self we know deep down we are not, yet still struggle to keep submerged.
Have you ever been in a room full of negative people who somehow become energised complaining to each other, little fuck to little fuck (the opposite of heart to heart), about all of their life problems? Competing over who has it harder?
If so, you’ll know how draining and demoralising these social situations are. Challenge the topic of conversation and you are sure to be shunned by the bitter majority, who will fire at you with all sorts of disparaging, patronising, confrontational questions and remarks: “What makes you so special..?” – and, dare you have the courage to explain… “You are living in dream land.”
My advice is to disconnect from people like this immediately until you are confident enough to gracefully and authoritatively dispel their cynicism. Energies are contagious – and if you continue such de-energising relationships you will eventually also be plagued and defeated by every hardship life has to offer.
Struggle is a fuel to cause you to strive for better, not a wet cloth to dampen the chance of achieving your dreams forever.
Those who tell you that what you want is unrealistic are often those who have been left sour because they weren’t able to accomplish the same thing themselves. Picture a stubborn father unable to open a jar, thus steering everyone in the family away from trying to open it it with the words “if I can’t do it, you definitely can’t”…only for his child to sneak into the kitchen later and open the jar with ease.
One of the best instructions I have ever received as an actor and writer regarding criticism is to first “take the note”, and then decide what I want to do with it: scrap it, spit on it, consider it or worship it. It’s important to listen to all advice but at the same time realise that not all advice is equal, to sort it in your mind in order of value, and do away firstly with the cluttered, cautious words of the cynics you have no wish to be like or become.
A good repellent for bad advice, then, is to only ever take suggestions from those who are in a position you desire to be in. You will recognise these people as the dreamers (not just by night; by day as well) – crazily, wackily and eccentrically passionate about their craft – and they will hardly ever advise you to give up. They might prompt you to change direction en route to your goal, but whether or not you do is ultimately up to your gut.
I believe your gut feeling has superiority over the opinion of anyone–be it the Queen or Meryl Streep (though there’s no competition over whose advice I’d take there). The more you consciously practice acting on instinct, the more likely you’ll agree that your gut is an inner-compass that has guided you to every success you’ve ever accomplished. It has always known what’s best for you; even when others were unable to see it.
If you are sat in smug disbelief, flip the gut-feeling philosophy on its head and stretch your brain back to a time you didn’t follow your gut. Relive the implosion of nerves–the butterflies–when you were faced with a potentially life-altering choice but at the very last minute decided not to make the move because you listened to your little fuck over your heart. Now you only feel regret about “what might have been”.
Even falling flat on your face would have been better than never knowing what you could have accomplished.
There’s something more cryptic about this life than any of us will ever know. Think of the Sword in the Stone that only King Arthur could retrieve. Ancient legend or not, I truly believe there is an exclusive path to greatness like Arthur’s paved for each one of us, if only we dare to break the status quo and follow it.
And now one final word on the advice of our loved ones: those darlings we can never really dodge in the same painless way we can the average critic. Well, if you are an aspiring poet and your grandmother is Margaret Atwood I suppose the answer is self-evident. But if your loved one has no relevant experience in your field, politely listen to what they have to say but don’t for a second feel guilty about rejecting bits you don’t find useful.
And if you hear the word “unrealistic” once I suggest you turn your head and walk the other way.