In the mid 80’s, my dad, along with many other men were laid off from work in the coal mines. The ‘recession we had to have’ was in full swing and many families in Wollongong were looking down the barrel of financial ruin.
Needing to support his wife and children, my dad needed to find work – and quickly. At the time, a hotel was being built on the beach in town. My dad contacted the developer and asked him who was doing the landscaping for the project, and if not, he is ready to do the job.
The developer asked my dad what landscaping work he had done before, to which my dad drove him to my grandmothers house and showed the developer the garden.
Unsure if he was being played, the developer asked my dad what the story was – to which he told him that he’d been retrenched from the mines and he needed to support his wife and three children.
Well, my dad got the contract for the gardens at the new hotel.
From there, he went to lots of other business in town, telling them he was ready to do their landscaping and gardens. When the business owners asked my dad for his credentials, he simply told them ‘put it this way, I’ve just got the contract to do the gardens at the new hotel in town!’.
I tell you this story because it has given me much inspiration in my life – certainly in recent months. Those who know me (and of course, you the reader!) have picked up that I quite enjoy writing. At work about six months ago I thought there has to be a dollar in this writing gig. I checked out seek and found a freelance writing position. Thinking of my dad, I wrote one of the most off-beat (and honest!) job applications of my life.
I got that job.
Since then, I’ve applied for other freelance writing jobs.
I’ve gone from writing articles for $15 a pop to ghost writing for many hundreds of dollars, all in the space of about six months.
I don’t say this to brag – to the contrary.
Behind any ‘lucky break’ is a stack of hard, hard, unseen work.
I would of written for free (and still do on this, and other blogs) just because I enjoy it.
Since getting these freelance positions, I’ve worked pretty freaking hard. Every article I write, I get feedback on. I read incessantly on how other people write. I study their style, how they put words together, how they use tone and so on. Sometimes I labour on every word, wanting it to look right on the page. I can do three or four drafts on something and still not love it. I can write a whole blog and not post it because there is one word I just can’t nail, or one sentence that just does not look right.
After my dad started landscape gardening, he started studying horticulture at night. To put this into context, here was a Berkeley boy, with parents from a non-English speaking background, who dropped out of school now learning Latin names of plants at night, after working a full day in the sun, coming home to spend time with his wife and three young boys, and trying to build up a landscaping business in the middle of a recession. My mum showed me his workbooks once – pages and pages of Latin plant names, written out in columns in pencil.
I don’t know your story. I don’t know your dreams, your talents or what you live for. Your dream could be staying home with your family, travelling the world, being the leader in your field, playing a musical instrument – who knows. Here’s what I do know – to achieve your dreams you need a couple of things. You need a bit of mongrel in you.
You need to want it, to be able to grab hold of something by the teeth, give it a shake and grab a bit of flesh. You’re not going to get a lucky break if you don’t ask for it. Do you want to be in a band? Start playing. Lots. Want to be a professional sportsperson? Get training. Want to climb that corporate ladder? Actually I’ve got no advice for that one.
You need to know what you want. Some people say it’s selfish to get the things you want – I disagree. Sure, there’s selfish things, but wanting to achieve your potential in life aint one of them. If you’ve got a dream, name it. Write it down. Put it on your fridge, next to your alarm clock, on your car dashboard. Remind yourself of your dream, on what you’re striving for. It will get you through the times when things aren’t going your way (and they won’t, when you’re trying to reach your dreams).
Be prepared to do a stack of hard work. A heap of it. I don’t know what my dad’s dream was when he asked that developer to do his landscaping. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t because my dad had a dream of working for the man, digging holes and mowing lawns. Some might say he had a lucky break to get the landscaping gig but I bet your bottom dollar – if he didn’t meet the expectations of the developer, there were a stack of other unemployed miners calling themselves landscape gardeners who would of done that work, and probably for less money.
Finally, have fun with your dreams . Don’t be limited by them. That might sound strange, I know. I’ve found that when you’re doing what you love, you simultaneously feel terrified and confident at the same time. Live your own dreams. I’m not going to lie to you – I’ve had to write some REALLY BORING articles and content, but you know what – someone has trusted me to do it, so I’m going to do it the best I can. I’m going to make an otherwise boring heading or title an exciting, interesting article and someone is going to pay me good coin to do it. Make your dreams your own. Put your own unique stamp on them, have fun with them!
In all reality, if you want to do the things you love, do the things you love. I’m not saying discard your responsibility – not at all. What I’m saying, and to quote the Shawshank Redemption:
“ Get busy living, or get busy dying”.
What are you doing about living today?
And before you ask, I really had no idea what I should name this blog. The pic of Hemmingway also has little relevance to the content, but liked the picture and fancy myself sitting outside in the sun, writing.