In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less. Whatever you have to do. If you’re lucky enough to know what brings you bliss, then do that thing at once. If you do it well, and for long enough, the world will find ways to repay you. This fall, in a toilet stall in Burlington, Vermont, I saw this scrawled on the wall: “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. The world needs more people who have come alive.” If you’re doing something you love, you won’t care what the world thinks, because you’ll love the process anyway. This is one of those truths that we know, but which we can’t seem to stop forgetting. In America, success is a word we hear a lot. What does it mean? Is it money, power, fame, love? I like how Bob Dylan defines it: “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.”
Harris is good when he talks about his work and his motivations for getting into the things he did. I find him less convincing when dishing out advice such as this. It’s almost as if he hasn’t really learned from his own experiences. The first section of this quote fetishises a work ethic which does not respect anything else in life. (The guarantee it will bring you riches if you toil long and hard enough I find very unconvincing.
The key is in the final section in which he quotes Bob Dylan but fails to interpret the meaning in full. “Doing what you want to do” is as much about doing nothing in particular at all, as it is about “chasing your dream”. And in fact, the former might be the best way to achieve the latter.
That’s what I’ve learned, anyway. But I’m no Jonathan Harris.