My dad often seems like the definition of shameless—in ways both admirable and, occasionally, embarrassing. No, I’m not talking William H. Macy-style shameless, as seen on his TV show of the same name. In the admirable corner, I’m referring to my dad’s willingness to consistently put himself out there in matters of business, and a general confidence in taking risks—despite the potential for failure. The debatably just-as-admirable but far more blush-worthy aspect of his character is the forthrightness with which he’ll tell a waitress or waiter the food sucks, or, as in the case of our drink date last night, his comfort in unpacking the shittiness of particular wines [like the one just delivered to him] to our server. While he’s not directly criticizing these people, I still feel the need to hang my head in slight shame and bestow the sweetest “sorry” I can on these poor folks before they walk away. But, despite his occasional pain-in-the-ass-ness, I still respect him for knowing what he likes and wants and not being afraid to say it.
While it’s certainly a double-edged sword, I do believe it was a huge factor in the successes of my dad’s career. He was a complete self-starter, not riding into business on any family laurels—all he had to rely on was himself. Though I have some of these assertive qualities myself, I’ve been concerned lately that I’ve struggled to harness their positive attributes to serve my career. I’m not nearly as much of a people person as he is—I’m an introvert at heart—so given the option to socialize, I often prefer to retreat with a book. This is no crime, and reading is the number one boon for any writer’s work, but the road to success is not entirely paved in a solid vocabulary. No, as my Dad pointed out last night, you can’t rely on your skills or talent alone to get your name out there—you have to network, you have to schmooze, you have to stay curious and hungry and let everyone you come across see that.
Some of my dad’s suggestions (keep following-up, for instance) seemed too pushy, to which I responded “But what about your pride? Don’t you ever get down on yourself or just sick of all the failed efforts?” He laughed, “Of course!” Though, as I pointed out to him, he doesn’t often show it. “Well, that’s when I go work out, or drink, or go to bed,” he half-joked, “And then I wake up the next day and start over again.” It was refreshing to hear that he, too, needed the occasional escape from harsh reality to get by. Perhaps it was the strong drink hitting my system pre-dinner, but I felt rejuvenated by this obvious realization—it was a kick in the ass I really needed. My dad, this seemingly always head-strong character that I’ve grown up with, suffers and doubts himself just as much as the next guy, and for the record, that proverbial “next guy” is suffering just as much as me, too. “That’s life,” as my dad said, referring to the dance of ups and downs that we all endure, adding the proper metaphor, “If you didn’t have hangovers, you’d want to be drunk all the time.”
And I think he’d agree that being “drunk” 24/7 would result in a lot less success and efficiency—we need both a clear head and the failures that come from trying in order to keep progressing. Riding high all the time just doesn’t have the same results—when everything’s great, you’re loath to make any changes, and change is, of course, crucial. His point, essentially, was to keep making an effort, but not simply by way of old habits. What I have to do is challenge myself, rather than conceding to the narratives I’ve already weaved, see: I’m an introvert, I get nervous, etc. No, those aren’t facts, and it’s up to me to disband them—if I want a successful life, at least. When he asked, “What’s the worst that can happen?” I simply didn’t have an answer, because, well, none of the results seemed that awful. And like he said, on the bad days, there’s always something out there to mitigate the pain, be it a nap, a friend, a run, or a tasty drink.
I keep thinking of that overused quote “Better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all,” except here the love is more geared towards yourself and your passion—whatever it is that you’d like to promote. Wouldn’t you rather know that you gave it your all, forcing yourself to trump those needy nerves and check off all possible boxes, instead of giving up before even hitting “Go”? Yes, <i>yes</i>, I would.