I have known that I wanted to do music for a living since I was a little girl. My mom still loves to embarrass me by telling stories from my childhood about how I used to put on a show whenever we had house guests, pretty much forcing them to be entertained by me. That tenacity has been with me my whole life. If I want people to pay attention to me they're gonna do it, dammit! And although I have had plenty of setbacks over the years, failure has never really been a reality for me. I decided a long time ago that as long as I don't give up, I can't fail. And having my music in tv shows and movies and performing at big events and starring in commercials only confirms what I already know: my hard work pays off. I'm living my dreams.
For an ambitious person, having a dream gives you a reason to wake up in the morning. Dreams give your life purpose, beyond the day to day realities of basic survival. They're motivation. They give you something to aspire to, and every step closer to the fulfillment of that dream makes you feel closer to who you really are... It reminds you that a greater version of yourself can and will exist, if only you work hard for it.
There is another side to ambition, though. Once you reach the point where you feel like success will never be attained, once it slips out of your grasp and there is no way to get it back, it can crush your soul. For many of us ambitious types, life with no dream to chase hardly feels like living at all. And you can try to move on, but soon the unhappiness and discontentment you feel is gonna show up in other aspects of your life. Maybe it's a fear of commitment. Maybe its a fear of failure or fear of success. Or all of those things. Once failure goes from being a scary possibility to a reality that you have to live with, the negative feelings and lack of confidence that it brings with it is like an oil spill, sullying everything it touches and damn near impossible to clean up.
I've seen this happen up close and personal, witnessed several people I love lose faith in their own specialness. I've seen a guy go from playing semi-professional football with hopes to make it to the NFL to being an unmarried 41 year old living in his overbearing mother's basement. I've seen a girl go from wanting to have her own yoga studio and aspiring to see the world to having multiple kids by multiple guys and squatting in random foreclosed houses owned by banks since she couldn't afford a home of her own. And I know that many of you who are reading this have lost your motivation and are living your own "settling" story right now. While I can't identify with the hurt you guys must feel from having to quit on the thing that made life worth living for you, I do understand.
So let's assume for a second that you really are the loser you consider yourself to be. There is nothing left in life for you but to work a boring ass job, marry someone who's at least halfway decent looking but isn't bad in bed, have some kids, grow old, and die. Now, for many people, that kind of life is their dream. The life an ambitious person settles for looks like success to the mediocre. And I'm not talking about people who are ambitious and passionate about getting a family and a good job, I'm talking about the folks who just live that life by default. It might not be polite to say, but I'm just gonna put it out there: some people just don't want shit out of life.
Many ambitious people seem to forget what mediocrity looks like, and failing at their dreams can knock them on their butts so hard that they start to believe that they are mediocre themselves, that they couldn't possibly be meant for more. Let's be realistic, though. Mediocre people don't care if they ever accomplish anything significant. They are complacent. They have no motivation to do anything outside of the norm. They are stagnant but they don't feel stuck because they don't have anywhere else to go. When you ask what they envision for their future, it's pretty much just a slightly upgraded version of where they are right now. And that's fine... if you're ninety years old. For us ambitious types, we can't be happy unless we're making the most of our time on earth. Mediocre people aren't passionate about much, they never have to grapple with giving up because they aren't really striving for anything.
Now that you've tasted failure, does that mean mediocrity is who you are? It's that simple to count yourself out and settle for less out of life, huh? Do you really believe that just because you didn't accomplish your goal it relegates you to the same hell as the people who never dared to dream at all?
You're wrong. Stop being so wrong.
In this jaded, capitalistic world, it took bravery for you to even try to accomplish something at all. It took discernment to even realize what you wanted out of life. It took dedication to not be distracted by other possibilities as you worked toward your dream. It took perseverance to be able to push yourself to work toward it in the first place. And maybe you could have done things differently, maybe you made some mistakes along the way. Ask yourself this question, though... What did you love more: the dream, or the way that chasing the dream made you feel about yourself?
You know what's sad? You could legit be a functional alcoholic or coke-head, working a job you hate and barely living life at all, but as long as your bills were getting paid nobody would have anything to say about it. That's how comfortable people are with mediocrity and defeatism and complacency and loss of motivation. You wanna know why you are so uncomfortable with it? It's because you're better than that. If nobody else in your life has the balls to say it, I do. You deserve so much more than living to die.
I personally believe that ambitious people who have fallen victim to the failure mentality have forgotten their own greatness. Y'all must really think that every human alive is driven, smart, and capable. Y'all must really think everybody is ambitious so there couldn't possibly be anything special about you. You really see yourself as some unaccomplished loser with no skills that could possibly bring you success in another way, don't you? Wow.
If you truly consider yourself a loser, then you won't trust your own thoughts. So trust mine. Because I'm not a loser. I've had my music broadcast to hundreds of thousands of people, I've done commercials for major brands, I've performed the new theme song for a game I played when I was a little kid, I'm friends with some of the same entertainers that I grew up idolizing. And I only got there because I didn't quit when I faced heavy losses in life. I have had my music stolen, I've had hard drives with dozens of my recordings erased due to another person's carelessness. I've experienced racism, sexism, and outright haterade. And growing up, I was a teen runway, I survived sexual abuse, and at one point I'd actually dropped out of high school. If I had quit on my ambitions at all the times when I felt like I should, I never would have gotten to the point where my favorite magazine of all time, Billboard, wrote a feature on me. Never would have grown a fanbase that's supported me for years now. I never would have gotten to the point where I make a living off of music in an era when nobody even wants to pay for it. Never would have been told by Oprah that she loves my dreadlocks and purple eyebrows. I'm not better or more talented than you. I just didn't quit on myself. So why did you?
Ambition doesn't just fade away, you know. It's lying dormant inside of you right now, suppressed by your lack of belief in yourself. And it doesn't help when you don't know where the hell to start, does it? That blows. So my advice, as one non-loser to another, is to take baby steps. Rediscover your motivation. Figure out exactly what the hell you wanna do. Out of all the things you're good at, what do you love most? What will make you feel fulfilled? Everyone says life is short, but they're wrong. Life is literally the longest thing you will ever do. So what do you want to spend your long ass life doing? And what steps can you take right now to work toward it?
And honestly, do you really care whether or not you accomplish your goal overnight? Don't be so caught up in your ego that you feel like you just have to have your accomplishments under your belt right now. Damn anyone else's opinion, be realistic... If you are dedicating your life to something you love, do you really care whether or not the payoff is immediate? Nah, you love the journey and you know it! So live for your dreams then. Make your goals a huge part of your life, just like family and friends. Surround yourself with people who believe in you and remain loyal to your support system. Whatever you love to do, read about it, talk about it, be about it. Decide on what your convictions are and stick to them. Don't be discouraged by anyone else. Make a decision about who you are and what you want, and commit to it. How can doubt and worry ever creep in once you do?
And I'm telling you firsthand as a little indie artist who does so much on her own, you will be shocked at how things in your life start to line up for you once you start walking that path toward your dreams. You'll be amazed at the way things fall into place, the way opportunities present themselves. And so what if you have been down that road before, so what if you face challenges again? Aren't you wiser now? Aren't you hungrier now? Most importantly, aren't you tired of waiting for your life to start?
Sure, you might have fallen on your face in the past. The past is dead, though. Your future starts now. Make it great.