I know how it is. It’s late and you’re exhausted, but you can’t sleep. It’s been another long and difficult day and no matter how hard you fight or push it doesn’t feel like you’re making any progress. Little by little, you’re beginning to lose confidence in yourself, and sight of your future. You can feel doubt and frustration swell in you like a sea. Maybe everyone is right after all, you think. Perhaps these really are just silly, foolish dreams.
I want you to step outside, take a deep breath, and look up. You are here, and alive, under a ceiling of stars—every one of them the result of untold years of cosmic evolution and impossible luck—but yet you have the nerve to believe that your own life has limits? That the universe has the power to give rise to galaxies and suns, but you don’t have the strength to live the life you want?
I never imagined I’d be a writer. It just wasn’t on my radar. To be entirely honest, nothing was. I left high school a directionless and juvenile fringe-faced brat with a hell of a lot to prove, but nothing much else. I’d always had a sense of what I ultimately wanted to achieve—to contribute something to the world that was my own, and to live on my own terms—but I had no idea what form that should take, and certainly no clue how to get there.
It wasn’t long before I fell in love with music, started songwriting, and began to learn what it means to have faith in yourself. Anyone at all familiar with the music industry knows how enormously difficult it is, even under the best of circumstances, and there I was, no experience, no connections, no talent—blindly committed to some wild and foolish dream, when a great many of my friends were sensibly readying themselves to begin their apprenticeships or university degrees. On paper that band should have never left the garage, but through a great deal of effort and perseverance we did. We sold out shows, played the Sydney Opera House, got a few songs on the radio, toured Australia countless times and recorded an album in the United States. Those seven years gave me some of the greatest experiences and stories of my life, but also some of the darkest.
As you can imagine, I had pennies to my name at an age when most were beginning to pay off their mortgages. I’d also destroyed a number of relationships, unable to divide my focus, while others settled down and started families. I was making what felt like sacrifice after sacrifice for little to no reward, but I was following my dreams, and when it really came down it, that was always enough.
Then the unthinkable happened. Seven years in, it all started to fall apart. I hit a wall and realized my passion for music had gone. At 25, I was at precisely the same place I had been at 18—lost, uncertain and absolutely devastated. Everyone else was right, I thought. I was reckless and stupid to waste so much of my life on such a foolish dream. I felt hopeless and in tatters, and became overwhelmed and terrified at the thought of my future. I had no plan b, no apprenticeship or degree to fall back on, nothing but $600 in songwriting royalties to show for all the sacrifices I had made, or at least that is what I initially thought.
See over the years, I had been writing creatively on the side. It was a natural way of developing my songwriting and in the spaces between albums I had amassed pages and pages of poetry and prose. So I decided to take one last risk. Rather than be sensible or safe, I chose to invest my every last dollar into something I’d never thought I’d do: I printed a little book called “A Boy Without His Feathers,” the physical culmination of everything I’d been through up to that point. With great nervousness and trepidation, I released it to the world.
In the end, my book sold out in a single night and my life was changed forever. Looking back, it is clear to me that every lesson I’d learned and obstacle I’d faced in the music industry had in fact prepared me for this. That without songwriting, I never would have become an author. That without years of experience in an independent band, I never would have learned the skills necessary to develop and market a book on my own. Though it ultimately came about in an entirely unexpected way, I am so pleased to know in my heart that I am now living the life I always dreamed of, and that everything that lead me here had a distinct purpose.
I see clearly now that even though timing and luck play an enormous part, unrelenting dedication is the key to making good things happen. I see that human potential is infinite, but that our commitment and belief in ourselves is not. That reaching a destination hasn’t got a thing to do with the difficulty of the path you’ve chosen to take, but instead the passion and persistence you walk it with.
It is no accident that a great many success stories begin with adversity. You’ll find you are capable of tremendous things when you are backed into a corner, when you are stripped of all hope and left with no other choice but to push on despite the odds stacked against you. Truth is, the obstacles and criticism you will face early in your endeavors are the very things that should drive you forward, that can bless you with the strength and constitution you will need to achieve your goals in the long-term.
Learn how to harness that negativity for good. If they doubt you, let it motivate you to work harder and prove them wrong. If you hit a wall, put your creativity into practice and work your way around it. Your failures are battle scars—they make you fierce, not weak. Remember that. You are not your shortcomings, you are how you overcome them.
So sharpen your fangs and wear your toughest skin. Shake the skepticism and condescension of others and have confidence in your ability to forge your own way. Be wild and tireless in all of your pursuits. And prepare yourself for the possibility that you might not always get what you think you want, but so long as you never give in, eventually you’ll get what you need.