When I was maybe 14 or 15, my brother and I began to write a novel about the continued adventures of the bounty hunter Boba Fett. I had grown up loving Star Wars (in fact, I was born less than a month after the first Star Wars movie came out.) I can’t remember who had the idea first, but we both started writing this novel together about Boba Fett, one of our favorite Star Wars characters. I lived with my mother, who raised us as a single parent and had to work a lot to make ends meet. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t even aware of that little project of ours. We probably got 40 or 50 pages into it and then the project piddled out. But to this day I remember that as one of the funnest and most mind-opeining things I did as a child.
Set Boba Fett aside for just a moment. (Trust me, I’m going somewhere with this.) When I was about 9 or 10, I remember my mother enrolled me in something called the “Genius Academy.” It was a summer program where we as a group of kids collaborated and created a children’s book together. The subject of the book was some generic “kiddy” type thing like a cat.
This brings up an important point, one of the most important lessons you can learn: there are two types of things in this world: the things you love, that activate the neurons in your brain, and the things you couldn’t give a sh*% about. That distinction is important, because the “couldn’t give a sh*% about” things don’t activate your neurons at all. In fact they do the opposite. They in effect make you seem like a much dumber, less capable person. Why? Because you just don’t care. Take a genius, the smartest person on the planet, and give him a job that he cares nothing about, and all the evidence from observation of his actions will point towards the conclusion that he’s an idiot. Is he an idiot? Of course not. He’s a genius. He’s just doing the wrong task.
When we do what we love, no matter who we are, we become geniuses in that field. My brother-in-law loves fishing. He is also a genius at fishing. He could go on for days explaining intricate, advanced concepts of fishing that would blow my mind (except for the fact that I don’t care about fishing.) The secret of being a genius is doing what you love. Everyone can be a genius.
Back to the kiddy book about a cat. The story idea for this kiddy book definitely fell into the “I don’t give a sh*%” category for me. The idea of encouraging children to create was good. However, looking back, I should have been encouraged to create things that had to do with what I loved. If they had told me to create a book about ninjas, or Star Wars characters, every neuron in my 9 year-old brain would have been activated, and yes, I would have given a sh*%. So much so in fact that I probably would have gone way beyond what the program called for and would have spent all my waking hours trying to create the best book possible. As it was, I did barely enough to get by. I remember the “Genius Academy” being quite boring and a waste of my time. The secret to being a genius lies in focusing on what you love.
If I could step out of a time machine and give my 14 year-old self advice back when I started writing that novel about Boba Fett, I would tell myself to keep going, to finish the novel and then keep making more novels like that. Obviously we couldn’t have sold the novel or made money off of it, since we didn’t own the copyright to Boba Fett. But that’s not the important thing at all. What is important is that we would have gained so much experience from writing those novels, and we would have learned so much. I’m sure at this point I’d be light years ahead of where I am now in my novel writing career. I gave up on my passion for 20 years, because I probably thought it would never go anywhere. I wish I would have known then what I know now: the most important thing you can do in life, second only to your important relationships (like my being a father for example) is to follow your dreams. Just think of all those wasted years working in jobs that I didn’t care about and being a dumbass, when I could have been a genius.
And even today, if I saw a kid trying to follow his bliss, I’d tell him:
“Don’t stop. Even though everyone around you, even the people who love you, will probably tell you the same thing, the poisonous credo of society, because they themselves have been poisoned. Never stop doing what you love. Even for a minute. Because you’ll look back in 20 years and realize you’ve lost 20 years of your life that no one can give you back. Especially not those people who told you to give up on your dreams.”