I have written a variation of this blog on several occasions over the years, but as each year passes, I (hopefully) learn more and understand the essence of what I do in life to achieve more fulfillment; to feel better about self, and others. I don’t always do it right, but I always try.
I have learned that we are most definitely not what we do. What we do, say…for a living, is but a tiny part of our spirit and soul. But it is just big enough to nourish it in a great way. A lot of people call it “our talent” and I can go with that. But from where does talent derive? Some think our parents, a teacher or teachers, God, the Universe, etc., and none can prove any of it. I would venture to say it is often a combination of all of the above, but that is not what is important. What is important is that we do something with it.
I have learned over the years that some of the happiest people I know do something with their talent; not the talent that “was handed to them”, not some talent or job (or career) someone coerced them into doing for their own agenda, but people who scratched their own talent that they got to know, play with, try, fall, keep trying, and finally succeeding to watch it blossom. Likewise, some of the unhappiest people are the ones who did, and do the opposite. And of course those tend to point fingers and blame people who have actually tried and done something (whether it be a commercial success or simply a hobby the nourishes their soul), for their own failures. People need “a demon” to blame. We who are actually trying to do something call those people “obstacles of our past”. I hope you learn to look at them that way too. They are the naysayers. They are the envious. They do not belong in your parade.
The good news is it is never too late to grow one’s talent. And one can do it without “quitting the day job”. It can be done little by little, and now, with such easy access to the Internet, it can be learned quite easily. If one can’t find the information in research, most colleges teach courses in almost any field of interest. A lot of people don’t even give it a shot for fear of the outcome, fear of failure, fear of people asking why would I take up “this kind of hobby at my age” etc. That’s sad.
Andrea Bocelli didn’t start singing opera seriously until the age of 34. Some ‘experts’ told him it was too late to begin. Phyliss Diller became a comedian at the age of 37. She was told by many club owners that she was “too old” to become a success. Stan Lee, creator of Spider-Man, was 43 when he began drawing his legendary superheroes and his partner Jack Kirby was 44 when he created The Fantastic Four. Julia Child didn’t even learn to cook until she was almost 40 and didn’t launch her popular show until she was 50. Elizabeth Jolley had her first novel published at the age of 56. In one year alone she received 39 rejection letters but finally had 15 novels and four short story collections published to great success. Mary Wesley was 71 when her first novel was published. Talk about not giving up!
Ricardo Montalban had his dream house built at the age of 68. That was when he was finally financially able to do so and he went full-speed ahead with it. Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing as a columnist in her 40s. Contrary to a belief begun by the TV series about her family, the popular Little House books weren’t written when she was a young girl at all. They were written and published when the ‘girl’ was in her 60’s! Grandma Moses started painting in her seventies (she quit embroidering due to arthritis) but never gave up. The list goes on and on from Thomas Edison to Albert Einstein (both of whom are thought to have had learning disabilities).
Fortunately, I love trying so many things that require writing and design, I am not really sure “what I am”. So nobody can really say I’m a success or failure at anything. To me, I am a big success simply because I had the nerve to try it. Some monetary gain has happened, but that is not even that much of a factor for me. I started when I was 43 and I am now 58. On March 19th it will be 15 years. And though I don’t put myself on the level with any of the aforementioned giants, I can look at nearly most of them, given what I’ve read about their lives, and think of them as “spiritual mentors”.
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And though I create cartoons with my Londons Times Cartoons team, I really have just as much fun designing gift products bearing those images and marketing them. I am fascinated by things I never learned and I was terrible as a young student due to a myriad of misdiagnosed and non-diagnosed medical disabilities. Some of them still present obstacles but that is okay. I returned to school at age 46 after a major heart attack and studied subjects I needed to know in business and Internet and after another major heart attack at age 56, I was already halfway completed with a totally different gift line that does not involve humor or cartoons. When I began recovering, I started right back with it.
I started learning social media, and by then Twitter already knew who I was (I imagine numerous of their future or current managers were colleagues of mine in school, and they verified my account upon my asking). Please follow me: I’m @RickLondon. Anyone who has tried to verify a Twitter account who is not a film star, tv star, Bill Gates, or The Hilton Hotel chain (and trust me, I’m none of those); I’m told it’s easier pulling hen’s teeth.
Not to worry, a verified Twitter account gives me no credence above anyone else, nor does it make me smarter, prettier, or richer than anyone else. I was as surprised as the next guy to have one. But it has turned out to be a very nifty tool in running a business and luring a large loyal following.
So you can see there are perks in at least trying. My wonderful wife Lee Hiller-London aka Lee Hiller who has Lee Hiller Designs and runs the popular nature/wildlife photography blog Hike Our Planet, did not start her line/brand until 2009. I didn’t have a clue if she was going to make a name for herself or not in that business, but I was proud of her for trying. Still am. As it turned out (and turns out) she is a “design/and arts machine) and sometimes she is at it nonstop all day, when she’s not hiking (and another perk I get is to tag along on the hikes) plus learn to take nature photos from the master with her old Sony camera (which she calls “The Magic Box”) Long story.
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3 years have passed rapidly and Lee has about 30,000+ gift products bearing her licensed images that sell everywhere from Sears to Amazon and through many associates in between. One can’t help but feel proud. She has a work ethic that anyone would want; and on those few occasions she makes errors, she simply researches it, improves it or fixes it, and keeps going. I like that attitude.
So if you’ve wanted to write a book, write one. If you just like to write, write. Today there are so many outlets. Like this one. Blogs are very popular. Magazines and newspapers have scaled down and are often looking for freelance contributors. I’ve written for both (and radio and tv). You just never know who needs what you write, and you never know if you’ve got what it takes, unless you try. And if, at first you don’t have what it takes, that’s a good sign. It means you’ve got learning and growth to do in that area, and to many (including me) the learning is the best part. The “Ah-ha” moment is a sort of magic.
If you want to dance, dance. Want to learn ballet? Learn it. Take lessons. Martial arts? It’s never too late? I can no longer do the Ishinru style I was trained to do in my younger days but Lee has been teaching me Tai Chi which we do about almost daily which I have grown to love.
There is so much you can do. So where do you start? Go to Bing or Google. Type in the subject. There you have it. You are on your way. Please don’t give up if something doesn’t happen right away. You are on a “learning journey”. Remember I’m on my 15th year and Lee on her 4th. We love the learning as much as the doing, and we learn something new everyday. Good luck and most of all have fun!
Rick London is a freelance writer, cartoonist and designer. He founded Londons Times Cartoons in 1997 which have been Google’s #1 ranked offbeat cartoons and funny gifts since 2005 and Bing’s #1 since 2008. He is married to nature/wildlife photographer Lee Hiller-London founder of the popular nature blog Hike Our Planet and founder and creator at LeeHillerDesigns.com. London also founded Rick London Designs which is a shop of Famous Quote Gifts including the graphics of those who penned or said them.