From Empire Strikes back:
C-3PO: Sir, the possibility of successfully navigating an asteroid field is approximately 3,720 to 1.
Han Solo: Never tell me the odds.
So…what’s the point?
Well first, Han Solo is the pimp-daddy of the galaxy. (I need to get me some pants like his.)
But more importantly, I think Han Solo is absolutely right. And this simple line “Never tell me the odds” has a lot more meaning than just humor.
A lot of people like to talk in statistical terms, especially people who are out to quash other people’s dreams. (You know, comments such as these: “You have more chances of winning the lottery than making it as an actor in Hollywood!”)
This is complete bullcrap, and here’s why.
Odds are stupid. Self-knowledge is everything.
I’ve always said that self-knowledge is the most important kind of knowledge. (Well, maybe not always, since I probably didn’t say that as a wee toddler, but I have been saying it since…I started saying it.)
The most important factor in decided what you should do for a living, or deciding anything for that matter, is knowing yourself. Especially knowing your own talents, potentialities, and above all your passions. Someone who tries to excel at something they aren’t passionate about might be able to do well for a time (emphasis on might), but eventually, inevitably, they will fail to be the best at what they do, simply because they don’t love it enough to sacrifice for it.
Let me give you an example.
In high school I managed to get A’s in math. (That is, after I stopped listening to death metal, cut my hair, and started doing my homework instead of playing Dungeons & Dragons. Looking back, I think my experience playing Dungeons & Dragons may help me in my novel-writing more than my high school classes. Then again, I had some pretty evil high school teachers that could serve as prototypes for villains and/or monsters…please excuse the long parenthetical…) In fact, on my A.C.T. I scored high enough on math to not have to take it for my first two years of college. (Yippie! I was very appreciate of this fact.) But let me fill you in on a little secret: I hate math. No, more than hate. I loathe it. I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a spoon than be forced to do algebraic equations or some other equally painful form of mathematical torture.
What eventually happened? Well, after changing my major from English to Business under the (misguided) advice of a friend, I had to eventually take math classes again. Oh the horror! I started hating college so much that I got all D’s and F’s and almost dropped out completely. “Forget this!” I said. (Actually, it was probably a different word that started with “F.” Like “Fudge!”…)
So where am I going with this? Am I trying to say math is bad? Am I trying to tell people to drop out of college? Hell no! Allow me to continue…
I decided something needed to be done to save my sanity. (Not to mention my grades.) So after watching hours upon hours of Behind the Scenes featurettes on my Star Wars and Spider-man DVD collections something happened. (By the way, the only way that I could publicly embarrass myself more on behalf of my nerdiness is to admit that in high school I actually read through the entire Silmarillion) I had a sudden, irrevocable epiphany that I would love to do what George Lucas does—sit around in a chair with a megaphone and yell out instructions for other people. (Just kidding…I don’t believe in that stereotype of Hollywood directors).
I decided to do something drastic. I decided to switch my major to Film.
It was shortly after I did this that all of the afore-mentioned dream-quasher types came out of the woodwork, supplying me with their handy-dandy statistics. (If I wanted to talk about statistics so much, I would have made that my major. Gosh people!)
So what was the result? (Another lengthy parenthetical: Years ago, when I worked in slave labor camps referred to in America as call centers, I was repeatedly forced to use what is called a “STAR” format in interviews: Situation; Task; Action; Result. I firmly believe that most incidences of call center employees going postal can be directly linked back to having to use the “STAR” format.)
Okay, sorry for the diversion. Back to the subject at hand.
After I changed my major to film, I not only did not drop out of college, but I went from getting almost straight F’s to getting straight A’s and being put on the Dean’s List!
The moral of this story?
When in doubt about your future, always consult your collection of DVD Extras. They can be quite insightful. Especially those involving George Lucas and Sam Raimi. (Plus, Spider-man DVDs have a bunch of great life-guiding advice: “With great power, comes great responsibility.”)
Enough about my boring life.
What if someone had come to Tom Cruise and told him the “odds” of becoming a Hollywood superstar? What if he had listened? Would we have Mission Impossible then? And MI:2? And 3? And 4? Well, yes, but Ethan Hunt would have been played by George Clooney, and after having George Clooney already scar my psyche for life by playing Batman, that would have probably pushed me over the edge and caused me to blow my brains out. (Can you believe that Michael Bay was originally going to have George Clooney do the voice of Optimus Prime in Transformers? What is it with George Clooney and trying to kill all our childhood memories?)
Alright, time to wrap up. Literally. And go to bed, because I’m tired. But to sum up:
Odds have nothing to do with an individual, only a “mass” collective of thousands or millions of people.
What the hell does that mean, anyways? As if everyone’s personalities, talents, and capabilities could be blended together into one. What do these arrogant, dream-quashing statisticians think we are anyways? The Borg? Wow, I’m really on a sci-fi kick today. Need to go watch some Star Wars.
The clearest indicator to what you should do, and what you are capable of doing, is not some “statistic”…it’s you. The ancient Greek aphorism applies here: “Know Thyself.” In other words, you have 100% chance of being successful at doing what you love if you commit yourself to it and get off your ass and do it every day. You also have a 100% chance of failure if you either:
(A) Choose to do something you hate and which makes you want to go postal (like for example any job which forces you to use the STAR format)
(B) Choose not to follow your passion, but instead give into Pressfieldian Resistance (read the book War of Art by Steven Pressfield to find out what this is, or you can also wait and check back here as I plan to do a post explaining this—to much going through my head for one day!) Note: these dream-quashers are actually a form of Resistance! (Without their even realizing it.)
Decide now to follow your bliss, and the next time one of these pencil-pushing walking, talking statistics “experts” comes to you with advice on your career, or life in general, here’s something you can say to them:
“Here’s a statistic for you: I have 100% chance of failing in life if I follow your advice and give up on my dreams, you jackass.”
(They, in fact, are probably someone who has failed to follow their own dreams and that’s why they are so vehement about trying to make you stray from the path of your own.)
Now on to the important part!