What motivates you?
What is the source of your energy that allows you to wake up each day, to get our of your comfortable, warm bed, and create something out of your day? It's just another day, right? What could be so different about another day where you wake up, shower, eat, run errands, sleep, and restart? If life runs by time where we "work" and then sleep, what motivates us to make life fun? Is there a light, an energy, a Fire that fuels you to do more? To build a unique path for yourself?
What motivates you?
Before I can talk about what goals are, and even what motivation I have, we need to take a little trip back in time, to where I was a spoiled little brat in 2nd grade. Maybe you'll find aspects that relate to your time as a child? There was a time where I didn't really have goals, and it was awesome until the point in life that I needed goals. You'll see where I'm going.
Ok. Let's take a trip to the year 2000. (Remember when that sounded futuristic? We're in 2015 and we still don't have... OK, I'll skip the Back to the Future II references).
Throughout my childhood, I felt like life was so easy. So simple and so... well, so awesome, honestly. I mean, all I had to do was wait for Mom and Dad to make my breakfast and packed-up lunch for school, listen to my teacher while doing classwork or taking a test, then come home to play video games, finish homework, and sleep. I wake up, restart the routine. Simple. And in kindergarten, after I got my Nintendo 64 bundle with Super Mario 64, you better believe I found my hobby.
School was easy for me. I never really thought about it. You listen to the teacher, you do the work. Simple. I got A's all the time and the teacher always loved that I did homework ahead of time, too. Of course I wanted to get homework out of the way, because I needed to play some games!
School was so easy. I didn't think about friends, or wanting to hang out with people, or really talk to anyone. I wasn't the person with the highest self-confidence, but we'll get to that part later. All I was happy with was my awesome, spoiled life where I could come home to just play games. That's all I did.
Super Mario 64. Ocarina of Time. GoldenEye 007. Star Fox 64. I could go on. These 4 particular games, though, formed virtually all of my free time as a kid. I would play them over and over, finding every little secret of the game, every route to a new part of the story, I mean, EVERYTHING. You wanna talk about how to get 400 points in Area 6 in Star Fox? You talk to me. I could get a 1500 point ranking on that game as a kid, no Gameshark. I couldn't do a push-up, but I could fly the Arwing all throughout the Lylat System, saving the galaxy from the evil Andross. I was pretty bad-ass, if you ask me.
Anyway, so me as a kid. I wake up, go to school, play games, eat meals and do homework in between, and sleep. I was happy doing this! I'm not saying at all that it was bad! I loved it!
I guess it wasn't really until junior high and high school that things changed. Once I hit 6th grade, I wanted to play music, so I learned the baritone horn and became involved in wind ensembles and marching band until the end of high school.
I can't remember when, exactly, that it hit me. There were many factors, I suppose, like my classes becoming harder, and friends around me talking about what they wanted to do in college and getting a job. But.... my childhood was coming to a close. An ending.
Honestly, I was never really thinking about what I wanted to do until I realized I had to go somewhere after school. Haha. All my life. All of my life, it's been a routine. An established path given to me. In the entirety of my spoiled childhood, I never stopped to think what I even wanted to do with myself. Even in junior high. Even the first half of high school. I didn't realize that Time is an element of life that gives mercy to nobody. Time is a constantly marching soldier that reminds me that life is finite. And the chapter of my childhood was quickly coming to a close.
And I think all of these thoughts have been hitting me right now, in my current, senior year of college, 2015 life because in 98 days from today, I will be graduating from Berklee College of Music. I will be done with school. That established path, that routine, will be.... well, not necessarily gone. But it will be defined by me. Not my parents. Not school. Not the games that help me escape reality for a little bit. Me.
And I'm both absolutely thrilled and absolutely terrified.
I had to define what I want to do with my life. And I had to figure out how to get there.
I've listened to video game soundtracks, movie scores, various random boy bands and pop music of the late 90s so much, that I knew I loved music. Music is what pushed me to join band in junior high. I wanted to be good at something. And I got good at play the euphonium.
And to practice and get good at something.... I needed to create goals.
I loved video games in that your character always has defined goals. What are they? Just pause and take a look. Bond could have short-term memory loss, for all I know, and if he does? Hoping that he remembers to look at this watch from time to time, he can just look at his watch, check out his mission briefing for the day, and look at the objectives needed to accomplish his goal for the day.
If only, if ONLY, life were that easy. The hard thing about life, as I discovered, is that there's no game creator defining your daily objectives on a pause screen you can look at. I had to write these down myself. Whether physically or mentally, I needed goals for the day.
And playing music was the start of my creating goals: short-term and long-term.
For the rest of this blog post, I think we can come back to the present day, and I can explain to you how my goals have changed, and how I've chosen to define my personal life path and what factors and influences have formed the foundation of my drive to succeed in something in life.
I've shifted into creating something for video games. I've learned how much they've formed a part of my childhood, and I wanted to go back to that era. To that age where I was just happy with my passing time. I want my work to be my happy passing time.
And I will do everything in my power to make that happen.
What I do now, in the present day, is write down notes of either quotes from people in my life or awesome quotes from games/movies that push me to do more, and have them somewhere where i can see. For example, this is above my computer screen:
The sticky notes are notes people wrote to me as part of a message exchange we did in Berklee's 2012 Cultural Leadership Retreat. They are beautiful messages, written from great friends I still have the fortune of speaking with today.
The nametag is from a networking event at Berklee where we were able to have nametags with our personal title on them. I hope it's not narcissistic to have something like a nametag on a motivation board, because it helps me to see my name and title on something physical. Something tangible. Again, the pause screen comes to effect.
To the left of this (unpictures) are my goals for 2015. You would think I would have them pictured for the world to see, but if you'd like to know them, message me and I'll be happy to share with you what my goals for the year are.
Essentially, I have short-term and long-term goals. What I can tell you is, in the long-term:
I will succeed in becoming financially stable as a composer and sound designer for video games.
That is my goal in life. And the beautiful thing is, if I reach it, I will just make another higher one to go for more. Nothing will stop me from achieving more.
I lied, there's one more instance I need to take you back on.
So what I want to define for you is the energy we feel in ourselves, the energy that wakes you up, fuels you, and makes you feel warm, pumped, and ready to conquer the day. You can call it anything you like, name it anything you want. For me, I call it Fire.
Now, I never really got to know Fire until, I would say.... college. Even after getting good with euphonium in high school, even after becoming more social with friends, and learning how to establish goals, I never really felt a true desire to seize life until I was in the beginning of the end of my life in school.
Fire is a friend in life. It manifested into me the summer after my first year of college.
Here's me, weighing a healthy 200 pounds.
Granted, I was never that big. But the thing is, at this point in my life, what I remember being was unhappy with how much I had to do in my life now.
Don't get me wrong, I was so happy i was in Berklee, hanging out with amazing friends, spending time with my parents whenever they visited (I was with my dad, who bought me and my friend Sarah McDaniel some awesome pizza at the North End). But at this stage in life, I wasn't with my parents as often. I wasn't with familiar faces all that much. Suddenly, I had to work to get that free time I always craved.
When I get stressed, I eat. I eat a lot. A LOT. I've never been obese, but I will gladly devour a whole large Domino's pizza if given the opportunity. I'll be sick. But I will do. Because food is the sinful love of my life. I LOVE. FOOD. And oh, do I still do.
So during this time, I didn't realize I gained all this weight, to the point where I couldn't even put on my dad's belt. My waist was bigger than my dad's waist.
When that moment happened, when I realized I couldn't put on a bigger belt.... something triggered. Not self-disappointment. Not anger. Not hate.
I was fed up with waiting.
I have always sat in life waiting for opportunities, pleasures, anything, to come to me. I never went for it. The closest I've come to was practicing hard on the euphonium, but honestly, I'm going to be very honest, fellow reader, I was just lucky. And privileged. My parents gave me everything. My games were my passing time. I just happened to be smart enough to focus in school and pretend like I was totally seizing life.
Not until I realized, when my family was gone, familiar friends were gone, and my health had taken a physical toll, that I realized I was doing nothing with myself. I was waiting for life to define itself.
And now. I was fed up. I had enough. No more waiting.
I wanted to walk. I wanted to run. I wanted to seize something. I wanted to EARN something. I wanted to claim something on my own and say, "I did this."
Soon, Fire was born.
Now, with all that talk of Fire, that doesn't mean I look like this guy above this text. No where close! Hah! But I don't care. But Shaun T is a figure who helped me learn how to be happier with myself.
Shaun T is the maker of Insanity, a workout program that strives for you to "dig deep" and push past your physical limits. Now, I could go on about how motivating, helpful, and honestly life-changing this program has been for me. But the awesome goal I can say is, I lost 35 pounds. I am 160 pounds now.
Still overweight, mind you! I still have some body fat that could be gone. But I can wear size small now, and frankly, I am happier than ever. It's not the abs that I wanted to fight for, anymore. I wanted to be happy. I wanted to learn how to fight for a goal. My goal was to not be afraid to find my limits and push past them. And I learned, finally. I learned how to be happy. I learned that life isn't easy when working toward something, but that the journey itself is the beauty of life.
The journey is beautiful! Isn't that amazing?
For me, my personal goal is to not be afraid of Ice.
Ice is the limit. Your limit. The point of fatigue, tiredness, the feeling of all your physical/mental/emotional resources being used up. The point where you absolutely know you have to rest and take a break.
Now, here's the thing. Ice isn't my enemy. I'm not hear to destroy Ice. I never will! And no one will ever be perfect enough to crush it.
Imagine you're standing alone, in an arctic frozen land, the wind screaming and snow shattering at your face. Everything about this land tells you to give up, and all you hold in your hand as your weapon is a stick of fire. Behind you is the path you took, leading to your comfortable warm, cozy bed, where you could sleep forever and never think or worry. Ahead of you, is Destination.
Destination can be anywhere. It can be anything. It's the Place you created in your dreams. You built it. You are the maker of this Destination! All that is blocking you is the world's biggest Iceberg.
You can realize that, with your lousy little stick, you probably won't melt Ice. You certainly can't just pick it up and throw it out of the way.
But you can move Ice. You can push it past your threshold. When you hold Fire against such a large creature like Ice, you may never melt it completely. But you can soften Ice. You can move Ice and push it forward. You realize, the stronger your willpower and push on Ice becomes, the bigger and stronger your Fire on your stick becomes. If you push hard enough, you can hear the frozen Ice begin to crickle and crackle. Is it breaking? No. Maybe. But you realize that the bottom is softening. There's water. And suddenly, you can move it.
Pushing this obstacle is the HARDEST thing in the world you have ever done. This is a huge, virtually immovable object that you have to tell yourself, "I will move this object." I will push past this limit.
The path is never linear, too. Sometimes, you find it easier to push Ice on a downhill slope, but then you have an upward slope that puts you at mercy of Gravity fighting you back. Sometimes, you come across an eternal fire that you can use as your checkpoint, a mark to rest and feed yourself before carrying on. Do you turn back, though? Do you go back to your bed of no worries, of no strength, of no life? Or do you fight for the Destination?
Defining your Path
There are many paths, philosophies, beliefs, ways of living that people define for themselves and for others. I'm not here to tell you what way is right. Heck, if Fire and Ice isn't your ideal way of thinking, don't use them! It's OK! I strongly recommend, if you seek motivation or purpose, look to so many others (family, friends, mentors, strangers, ANYBODY!!) for their own ideas. Talk to people. Ask them questions. Learn from them. It's beautiful to know that there is something to learn from everyone you meet.
But this is my own, personal motto that I share with others as my advice, based on my current journey on my path to my Destination.
Define your path. Your path. The keyword: Your.
Nobody can define your path but you. Maybe there are multiple Destinations. Maybe you have so many, you will never reach all of them, but you sure as heck can get to as many as possible! Or maybe you just have one that you want to get to. You've made it to your Destination. You did it. And you did it yourself.
Maybe your journey isn't an arctic wasteland, like I was just imagining it, haha! That seems so crude and pessimistic! A journey can be a sunny day. A stroll in the park. A roller coaster. A hike through the woods and mountains. It can be anything.
What makes the journey of life beautiful is that you can define it for yourself. You can answer the question of what drives you. After all, what is it that creates your Fire? What do you know is in your arsenal that can push you past your own limits?