Take risks

Another quick link post, so I can clear out one of the tabs that’s been sitting open in my browser for the last week.

This one is to Muddy Colors, which is actually an art blog that I found through Dan (who’s an artist and has more cause to read such things). I like to pop in now and then to see the latest posts, because they’re all crazy talented people who post there and often have interesting things.

For instance, one of them recently did a painting of Joan of Arc, which I absolutely loved. There’s something so emotional about it. It’s sort of painted in a 16th-17th-18th century painting style (I used to know all the names and which was which, but while I sort of know most of the names still, I’ve largely forgotten which is which) and is really well-done.

But that’s just a side comment. The one that I’ve kept open in my browser is actually a short observation on two artists and their choices. One guy painted the cover of the video game DOOM (remember that?). He was offered the choice of a small one-time payment, or a share of the profits. Figuring the odds of the game going anywhere were small, he opted for the small but secure payment. Of course, we all know how well DOOM ended up doing.

The second guy graffiti-painted the walls at the Facebook offices. He was offered the choice of a small one-time payment or stock options in the company. He took the stock options. With Facebook going public recently, his options are now worth $200 million.

Similar sets of choices, but different decisions, and vastly different payouts. Of course, these things are always easier to see in hindsight; it’s obvious now what the right decision should’ve been. But there was no way for the artist to know at the time – DOOM could’ve bombed and his share of the profits would’ve been less than he’d’ve made from the one-time payment.

What jumped out about these two stories to me, though, is that the one guy took a risk, made a sacrifice (no immediate income), and it paid off; the other guy didn’t, and missed out. (I should point out that he didn’t really lose from this decision; he still got his paycheque. He just didn’t win, either. The safe decisions are safe because they’re neutral.)

We can’t ever know how things are going to play out, but if you never take the risks, you’ll never get the pay-out. Risks are scary. Dreams are scary. But you’ve got to chase them, and maybe make some sacrifices up front, for them to even have a chance of coming true.

I’ve devoted two and a half years to the craft of novel-writing, so far. I may never sell a novel, for all I know. Or it might sell for peanuts. It may be that, career-wise, this is a complete dead-end, and that’s two and a half years of wasted time that I could have been developing my skills elsewhere. But maybe it won’t be, maybe I’ll win big, get a major advance, a big movie deal. (Hey, it could happen. You never know.) Or maybe I’ll sell for regular smaller advances and build a career on it. But for me to even have a chance to land that huge advance or build a career through repeated sales, I need to have sacrificed all that time and effort up front. It will definitely never happen if I don’t take the risk.

So dream big. But then work hard. Take risks. Make sacrifices. It’s the only way your dreams can ever have a chance to come true.

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