Someone just bumped a thread on the Animation Mentor forum where Bobby Beck had posted a link to a speech given by Steve Jobs, which was delivered at the Stanford University commencement ceremony earlier this year (also available elsewhere in audio form). It's a great read/listen, as the speech has application for pretty much everyone, not just folks graduating from college.
Several points from his address rang true for me, especially when looking back and "connecting the dots" through various experiences I've had in the past. As I've gone through hard times, it's been difficult to see how those experiences could be of any real benefit down the road, aside from the standard "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" mentality. But in retrospect, it's often very clear to see how I flat-out couldn't have achieved Success X without suffering through Hardship Y.
I also appreciated Jobs' counsel to find what you love and don't settle for anything less. This especially hit home when looking back on my initial job search after graduating from school.
I had my heart set on getting a job as a character animator, and I recall several conversations I had with the school's alumni counselor about the types of job leads he was feeding me. One lead that sticks out pretty strongly was with a small company that took GPS data of golf courses, modeled and textured the courses in 3D, and used the results in booklets that golfers would carry with them around the course. I had a lengthy chat with this counselor about how this job was not even close to the direction I wanted to go, and he pushed back with the standard "You have to start somewhere" argument. I finally relented and agreed to go for an interview, which I arranged over the phone with someone at the company.
On the surface, the interview went pretty well. I got to see what the company did, I had a fine chat with one of their leads, and for a moment I felt like I could actually take the job if it was offered to me. But then, at the end of our time together, we watched my demo reel, which my interviewer hadn't seen yet. After viewing it, he commented about the fact that my reel was nothing but character animation. With that comment, my passion for character animation came to the surface, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.
After hearing my comments, the interviewer asked me, "So why are you interviewing for this job?" Obviously there was no way I truthfully say that I had a passion for playing with GPS data for golf courses. The only other answer that came to mind was the one my alumni counselor gave me: "I suppose I have to start somewhere." Considering the way that came out, I think it was pretty clear to him that I wasn't really interested in the job, and it was pretty clear to me that I wasn't getting the job. Despite that, we managed to end the interview on a positive note, and I headed for home.
There were a few other similar experiences with other companies, and every time I couldn't hold back from telling people about my passion for telling stories through character animation. Despite the alumni counselor's insistence that I would most likely have to settle for something lower to start out with, I stuck to my guns. I refused to settle, and within a year of graduation I got my first job at Big Idea Productions.
I can even see how I refused to settle when it came to my initial dealings with folks at Big Idea. I had sent in my demo reel and expressed a desire to join the team producing their new 3-2-1 Penguins! series. I got some great feedback on my reel from the animators, including the suggestion to "Send it again in a year." That got me pumped, so over the next few months I worked out a plan that would carry me to the end of the year when I could apply again.
Just three months after that counsel, I saw that they had another opening for the Penguins! team. Looking back, I can see how I could easily have "settled" and continued to follow my one-year plan. Instead, I jumped on the opportunity and contacted them again about re-reviewing my reel. That led to a couple of animation tests, which led to an interview, which led to my first job. By not settling, I effectively whittled my one year plan down to five months.
I may not have had Jobs' speech to inspire me as I was going through these various experiences, but I'd heard similar counsel from other sources, both secular and religious. I knew what I loved, and I knew I would kick myself later by settling for anything less. I'm so thankful that I didn't settle, and continue to be thankful every day for the blessings I've received because I haven't settled. If you need a boost of enthusiasm -- or heck, even if you don't -- go check out Jobs' speech. Great stuff in there. :)