It’s July. Harry Potter’s birthday is coming up.
I turned 32 last month, and I’ve always felt my birthday acts in tandem with New Year’s as a semi-annual review and analysis of where I am, where I’ve been, and where I’m going. This mid-2014 review has left me feeling down in the dumps. I made the dean’s list the past three semesters, which is a feat heretofore unheard of for me. I submitted a paper on metahorror to my university’s academic journal at the request of my professor. I won an award for best original score at the film festival, and was nominated in the screenplay and editing categories.
I was also laid off in February. That has dominated a fair amount of my mood over the past five months. I felt discounted. Expendable. Why was I so easy to let go? I’m smart. I’m nice. I’m friendly. I’m lots of adjectives.
The time I’ve had to spend with my wife and daughter has been amazing, but it’s been tainted by this looming threat of no work and no money, compounded by the inevitability of my unemployment running out. Being unemployed, mixed with my complacency and sense of righteous indignation over being (in my estimation) unfairly let go have added nothing but tension at home. Lots of late nights that only ended in frustration, fear, helplessness, indecision, and sometimes, tears.
After our most recent session, I focused on how I had gotten where I was. I remembered a Cracked article I read a couple of years ago entitled “6 Harsh Truths That Will Make You A Better Person“. It’s an excellent article that lives up to its title. It’s harsh. It’s true. And it helps you become a better person. For the TL;DR crowd, or those that don’t like clicking off to other pages in the middle of an article, I’ll boil down the article to its headings:
- The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You
- The Hippies Were Wrong
- What You Produce Does Not Have To Make Money, But It Does Have To Benefit People
- You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything
- What You Are Inside Only Matters Because Of What It Makes You Do
- Everything Inside You Will Fight Improvement
You’re lucky I don’t just repost the entire article here, because it’s worth it. I’ll just link the scene from Glengarry Glen Ross (Foley, 1992) that the author references multiple times. ***Fair Warning*** NSFW language in this clip.
Remember how I said I was a lot of adjectives before? We’re all a bunch of adjectives. People can’t use adjectives. People need verbs.
After reading that article, I was struck particularly by the sections titled “The World Only Cares About What It Can Get From You”, and “You Hate Yourself Because You Don’t Do Anything.” I thought about what shortcomings I have as far as who I am versus what I do, and was inspired to compile the titular list of…
6 THINGS NOBODY GIVES A SHIT ABOUT
1. Your Past
I’m not saying a potential employer has no interest or right to perform a background check, or that your sexual history shouldn’t matter to your future spouse. Your past may be sparkling with meritorious efforts that defy human limitation. But that’s not going to matter if you can’t deliver on those expectations now.
Think of it as a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately situation. The Sixth Sense (Shyamalan, 1999) is a taut and subtle masterpiece of terror, isolation, and uncertainty. The last Shyamalan film I saw was The Happening (2008). The fact that The Sixth Sense is great does not make me want to see the dude’s new films.
Just because you’ve done great things in the past does not entitle you to do nothing in the future. You must continue proving yourself, or people will discard you.
2. Your Potential
Just like your past, your potential is not a guarantee of the quality of your future. Unlike your past, your potential may be some immeasurable, amorphous, invisible thing to everybody but you. And let’s face it, you may be lying to yourself about your potential. A jet engine has the potential to fall right out of the sky and land on you as you read this. But it’s probably not going to happen.
Saying you have untapped potential is a nice way to feel better about yourself even though you’re not producing, creating, achieving, or trying anything. But nobody cares about all the amazing crap you’ve never made or done for the same reason you can’t buy anything with bars of gold-pressed latinum: they don’t exist. M. Night may not be putting butts in the seats like he used to, but he’s far more likely to get a directing job than someone who’s written and directed 17 different versions of alternate Star Wars prequels in their head.
You want to have other people realize your potential? You have to at least partially realize it yourself first.
3. Your Insecurities
People are far too busy to reassure you that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented. You have to tell yourself that you’re awesome, wonderful, pretty, and talented.
If you walk into an audition, an interview, a party, or a bathroom and have to ask yourself if you belong there, you don’t. Nobody is going to tell you that you belong there, they’ll just show you the door. Why should they waste time reassuring you when there are tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of people that know they belong there and will gladly and quickly take your place?
One of the best pieces of advice I ever got about interviewing/auditioning/etc. is that everybody wants you to be the one. That director? She wants you to be the perfect person to fill this role. That supervisor? She wants you to be the ideal candidate for this job. Leave your insecurities at the door and let them form their own opinion.
4. Your Opinion
So you didn’t like Transformers 4? Nobody cares.
Your opinion doesn’t hold a lot of weight even when people want it. It holds less when it’s unsolicited. I realize that saying that in what is essentially an advice piece like this might seem conflicting. No one said you had to read this. Stop now. Or don’t. I don’t care. I’m not really doing this for you. BECAUSE I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT YOUR OPINION.
Bottom line: If people want your opinion, they will ask you. And even then, they probably won’t care.
5. Your Hurt Feelings
Has someone made fun of you or something you made? Has someone rejected you, berated you, yelled at you? Has this list made you feel threatened, ridiculed, or hurt? Are you offended?
That should prepare you for how much someone out there will care that you’re offended. Or hurt. Or overlooked.
I was a senior in high school when a friend of mine ditched me and sold me out. Two years later, a mutual friend asked why it was still bothering me; the ditcher never mentioned it. I explained that if someone steps on your foot, they’re not really affected by it like you are. They keep walking while you deal with the pain.
And that sucks. But it’s the way it is. And the sooner you realize that, the sooner you can stop whining about it and direct that whining energy into something that counts.
6. Your Excuses
This is the big one. Excuses will wreck you. There’s that old adage: If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way; if not, you’ll find an excuse.
Nobody wants to hear:
- Why you screwed up.
- Why it’s not done.
- Why you couldn’t get to it.
- Why you’re late.
- Why you’re sorry.
- That you’re sorry.
That’s a short list of crap that people don’t want to hear. Believe me. I know. People don’t want to deal with the fact that whatever you said would happen didn’t. They don’t want to deal with an excuse on top of disappointment. They want results. Don’t make excuses, make it happen.
The most important person that doesn’t give a shit about your excuses should be you. We have this ability called rationalization that is both great and terrible. The great thing is it helps you feel better about yourself when there is literally nothing you could have done to affect an outcome. The terrible thing is it allows you to justify not doing absolutely everything within your power to affect an outcome.
Ten years from now, if you’ve made excuses not to do things, try things, challenge yourself, or exceed your own expectations, nobody is going to be more affected by that than you.
Ultimately, you should be your own harshest critic because your success is just one more thing nobody else is going to give a shit about.
This list was self-targeted to the point of being therapeutic. These are things I didn’t want to hear when I was younger. They’re things I didn’t want to hear when I was writing them. But they are things that I absolutely believe will benefit you if you let them.
Thanks for reading.