When I enrolled as a freshman in college the fall of 1977, I majored in music and dance. I had two dance classes including auditioning for and getting a spot on the college ballroom dance team. I also auditioned for and won a position in the college symphony orchestra and a school rock band that played frequently at school dances on the weekends. If that were not enough, I took piano classes as well. I loved it! When I graduated, I was going to become a performer, the next Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire.
I loved the movies then and I love them now. And even though Clint Eastwood and Harrison Ford were a couple of my big-screen favorites, I knew my place in show business was to become one of the next generation of song and dance men.
My college performing career was moving along in a stellar fashion when I noticed something fearful creeping into my psyche. My teachers were telling us students that unless we made it really big in show business; we could expect to live out our lives living under a park bench somewhere in Beverly Hills or Central Park. I knew I wanted a family and would have the pressure of providing for them regardless of my career choice and so certain voices in my mind began to speak louder than others. So, eventually I changed my major to business and accounting.
Now some of you might say, so what? But here is something fascinating to consider; at least fascinating to me. First, I am the fourth generation in a line of businessmen/accountants. My dad, grandpa and great-grandfather were all accountant/businessmen. Knowing that factoid makes it easier to understand why I ultimately chose accounting as opposed to something else. But there is another tragic irony. And that is, Second, each of these men were talented performers in their own right and yet they each sold out for a “marketable skill” as they, and others often did. I find that fact particularly sad when I consider it.
Even though I have had what I would consider a successful finance and accounting career; a career any mother would be proud of for her son, I have often wondered with great emotion, what it might have been like if I had stayed true to my dream.
What if a teacher or mentor had taken me aside and explained to me, “Kid, show business is a tough business, but what business is easy? Let me show you how you can make more than just a so-so living as a performer, let me show you how you can support a family in show business. Let me show you the business model of show business; the business of the business as they say.” What if I had someone, anyone take a real interest in seeing me succeed?
Would I have chosen to stick it out? Who knows? Would I have ended up under a park bench, homeless and destitute? I doubt it. The fact is, I made another choice and went a different direction, and unfortunately, I have spent way too much energy second guessing that choice for over thirty years, even though I did get into the business of show business for a number of years as a finance executive for The Walt Disney Company.
I even got to be “Goofy” at Disneyland for a day.
Since then, I have more than compensated for my desire to be in front of an audience by doing a lot of public speaking, classroom teaching, as well as workshop and seminar facilitating. It satiates my need for applause and adulation. However, nothing still gets me really going like Jimmy Cagney hoofin’ to Yankee Doodle Dandy.
So what am I getting at? Simple. Stay true to your dreams. Don’t ever let anyone convince you otherwise. And in the immortal words of Winston Churchill, “Never give up. Never give up. Never, Never give up.”
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