Artists who followed their passion at an older age and who succeeded greatly in that. What made them stand up for their passion so late in life, what drives them to continue and beat the odds? I am currently interviewing them. July 2012 – © Carolien Oosterhoff
CO: “One day you decided to call yourself ‘a writer’ instead of ‘a wannabee writer’. What was different about this moment from all the years before?”
JG: A friend asked me what my dream was, and I told him it was to be a writer. But, of course, he knew me and my writing. So he issued this challenge: “Jeff, you are a writer; you just need to write and call yourself a writer.” After that, I started writing every day. That was the “turning pro” moment for me that Steven Pressfield talks about. I no longer thought of myself as an amateur after that. Nothing qualitatively had changed about my writing, but it was the mental shift I needed to start doing work that mattered.
CO: “What changed after that decision when you decided to write and not ‘trying to write’ anymore?”
JG: I woke up every day at 5 am for a year, writing as much as I could in the time I had before going to work. Some days were better than others, but I made time in my schedule to write. Which was good, because I needed the practice. I also started a blog and put my work “out there” on a more regular basis to see what resonated with people. I published 5 to 7 new blog posts every week for nearly a year, and that helped me find my voice and what resonated with an audience.
CO: “You just launched your new book. What will this book bring us?”
JG: It recently launched. This book is about the life we’re afraid to live. As a Christian, I introduce some more of my faith in the book, but it’s not preachy by any means (at least, I hope not). It’s a book about how we find our purpose in life and where that really comes from. Ultimately, I believe we find meaning and satisfaction when we’re serving others, so the book is full of stories of people who are doing just that. Happiness is a paradox; we find it when we’re helping other people.
CO: “What are your talents?”
JG: To be honest, I feel rather insufficient. I don’t think of myself as talented, but I do consider myself called. In other words, I know there is passion and drive and maybe even some gifts in me and I have a responsibility to use those gifts. It’s a compulsion, a conviction. I can’t not do it. It’s not about talent. I would do this even if no one paid attention; I really mean that.
CO: “How do you feel if you aren’t using your talents? What would your days look like if you’d just thrown your talents in the corner of a room and leave them?”
JG: There’s an interesting proverb that says “hope deferred makes the heart grow sick.” Our passions are, essentially, what we hope to do with our lives. When we defer or deflect them, our heart gets sick. Our lives become empty and hollow. For me, that meant I started resenting anyone who talked about pursuing a dream. It felt self-centered to me, but really I was just jealous. This is why it’s so important for me to write every single day. That sickness can creep back in at any time.
CO: “Standing up and standing out takes courage. What fears did you meet and how did you overcome these?”
JG: Fear of failure and rejection are two big ones, but the biggest is this: fear of success. What happens if this actually works out, if I’m not as terrible as I think I am? That’s a scary thought, because there is responsibility associated with that. You need to act. I face these dragons every day. The best defence is offense; my sword of choice is doing the work.
CO: “Change and success is also a reason for some people to turn against those who are. What has changed in your life?”
JG: The biggest change I’ve experienced since becoming a writer is the weird effect an audience has on you. At times, I find myself afraid to say certain things I wouldn’t have thought twice about saying before. At other times, I obsess over making everyone happy. It’s really not healthy. The good news about this is that it means people are paying attention to the work, but this is why it’s so important to have personal values and convictions. Without them, you’ll just chase whatever will make you popular. Again, this is a daily struggle for me.
CO: “Many people still wait until somebody knocks on their door and tells them they were finally ‘discovered’. Though this happens rarely. What would your life look like now if you hadn’t made this important decision to pursue your dreams?”
JG: The best decisions I’ve ever made have been scary; they’ve involved risk. Without them, I’d be unmarried, unhappy, and unemployed. Not to mention, I wouldn’t be a writer or have much of an interesting story to tell.
CO: “Standing up needs a strong character. You also got over the idea that artists should stay pure and not do any ‘marketing’. How did you manage to get your work published?”
JG: Art deserves to be shared. If you do work you can be proud of, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to see the message spread. Stop thinking of it as marketing and start thinking of it like a great idea you have to share with a friend.
CO: “What would the world miss if you hadn’t chosen to stand up and do ‘your thing’?”
JG: There was a line in my recent book, Wrecked, that was about moving to Oklahoma and raising five kids. It was an arbitrary example of what we might consider a “normal” or even “mundane” life. The point was that even that can be extraordinary, if you have the right perspective. Then I received an email from a man who had moved to Oklahoma (after living overseas for many years) and raised five kids. He was wondering where the adventure in his life was, and when he read that line, he cried. To me, that’s what this is all about.
CO: “What would your advice be to those people who are not taking their ‘calling’ seriously enough?”
JG: Yes. We don’t choose the work; it chooses us. When we are called, though, we are not promised success. We are only promised the work (and the joy that accompanies it).
CO: “What is the biggest driver in your life that makes you do what you do?”
JG: I believe in God. And I believe our callings come from him. This isn’t about me; it’s something I’m called to do. Therefore, my response is obedience.
CO: “Thanks, Jeff! Which question did I not ask and you wished I did?”
JG: “What’s your favorite food to make”? (and it’s guacamole;-) I liked your questions and I agreed to do it, because I try to be accessible to my tribe. I don’t take you for granted. Thanks for your patience, Carolien! I appreciate you.
Follow Jeff on Twitter
© Carolien Oosterhoff – 2012