Serendipity is defined as: “luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for”.
I suppose I could sit back and call myself “lucky” in this life. I have a beautiful home. I have an amazing wife who loves me, and tells me she will marry me “Everyday” when I ask her. This is our ritual
She says “Can I keep you”
I reply “Only if you keep me forever… Will you marry me?”
She responds “Every day”.
Part 1: The gifts of my pain
I could say I am lucky because I get to go to work each day doing something I love to do… A dream job that almost everyone on earth would trade places with me to have. I get to work from a home office and see my wife and kids whenever they wonder towards my open door (or my wife who knows she can always knock). I get to play in a sandbox creating the next generation of video games with tools I spent 17 years designing with the help of the largest army of incredible animators and engineers in the world. You could say it was all luck… but that is to discount what I have gone through to find my way to this moment in time and space.
I fought my way past bullies who thought martial arts was stupid, dance was a “thing only girls did”, gymnastics, stunt work that destroyed my body… I fought my way through competition at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and managed to land (through connections with professors at SCAD) a dream job working on “Lord of the Rings” research and development where I met key inventors in the effects industry coming off their third academy award win in a row… I managed to then have that connection get me a job as a lead on the original X-Men films where I worked 80+ hour work weeks and often slept under my desk.
That same man recruited me into one of the most prestigious companies on earth… which allowed me to design and get built tools that I can use to create games on my own over 18 years of focused effort and constant cat herding. You could say where I am today makes me lucky… Serendipitous… but it would be discounting the many times I slept on a thin mattress under my desk, as I watched Mystique’s scales simulate over hours and hours, checking them on an alarm every 30 min to make sure my computer hadn’t crashed or ran out of RAM in the process.
You could say it was dumb luck that I caught the ear of our Chief Technical and Chief Creative officer and had him mentor me… or that I ended up sharing an office with the creator of all of the beautiful ships and armor and costumes in “Star Wars” (the original Trillogy) and the first couple “Star Trek” films that defined my childhood. You could call it luck that I worked so hard to earn my current position… on one title that my daughter was nearly a year old before I truly “met” her and began to be a father. I would tell you I paid my dues, and deliberately placed myself where I am today… and luck had nothing to do with it.
Yes it was serendipitous that I was born in a house with only sisters, in a neighborhood with only girls my own age. It was lucky that bullies beat me down until my skin was so tough no bully could ever make me do anything again. It was luck that lead me to develop skills that taught me human motion (Dance, Martial Arts, Acting, Skateboarding, Snowboarding, Surfing, etc…)… due to a drive to move my body deliberately in so many ways. It was luck that I am addicted to fixing obvious problems that many call impossible to solve, living with a quote from Walt Disney “it is fun to do the impossible”. It is luck that I developed my learning ability (once called a disability) in a montessori school, rather than a public one that told me to sit down, shut up, and do as I am told.. because “that’s just how its done”. It is luck that I learned to move my body so that when I animate I know where arms and legs and hands belong… I was lucky to learn everything I could about animation, and then translate that into the language barriers of computer animation after I saw “Jurassic Park” for the first time. I was lucky to have transferred to SCAD as a senior putting to end my dreams of being a professional fighter in spite of my parents’ objections… It was lucky that someone decided to launch match.com and gave me a platform to crowdsource finding the perfect wife… For me.
I was lucky to be born into this machine – after that… I made my own luck with passion, dedication, and proverbial and literal blood, sweat and tears (as cliche as that might be).
Part 2 – The gifts from my parents
It may seem arrogant to say “I made it this far myself” – because I haven’t. We are all born sliding into home plate and many of us are then taught through our lives to go backwards and run the bases ourselves with are all sorts of rules in place to prevent us from following our dreams.
My father once explained to me (one of the greatest gifts I ever received from him) two things…
First: “most of the time you are going to be the ‘smartest guy in the room’, but if you assume you always are the only one that has answers you will miss the fact that everyone else in the room has something to offer… perspective… what’s worse, if you believe you are the smartest guy in the room and are wrong, the smartest guy is going to be smart enough to write you off”.
Second: “losing should be your goal… Find the person who is better than you, staple yourself to them, and lose… over and over and over… we gain nothing from easy wins, we grow from losing… figuring out why we lost, and trying again and again until we eventually win” – view every single person who is better than you as a teacher who is training you to be successful at whatever it is they are good at. This was in reference to him being a professional racquetball player and me asking to play him when I was a young teen… and furious and frustrated when he played me, and destroyed me. Never once in my life “let me” win. He explained why I was losing, and helped me learn… but he never gave me a single point, and I never came close to his skill (although its been a very long time since anyone other than him as beaten me in the game). My grandfather was this way with Chess as well, and eventually I won a game, at which time he stopped playing with me (that was the last game we ever played… I was 15 and he lived about another 10 years).
My mother gave me gifts as well
First: “the key to happiness is to explore and figure out what you love to do, then practice it so much for fun… that eventually someone will pay you to do it”… I have earned money teaching martial arts, I have earned money choreographing dance for a male review (and dancing in it), and I have earned the most money chasing my true passion – Animation. However the one thing I’ve never chased Is wealth in the form of monetary reward. My reward is success Through failures.
Second: “if while pursuing your dreams, be ready to take steps alone… no one is going to push you on your quest”.
Part 3 – The gift of learning
That gift my father bestowed upon me… the one where I had to embrace and learn to love failure… Was redirected and enhanced when I started reading about great inventors, by a single life changing quote from Thomas Edison “I never failed to make a lightbulb.. I just found 1000 ways not to make one”. In my life… “I have never failed to make a productized game engine for animation, I have just so far found 3 complete ways not to” – For me all 3 engines I have helped design within my company have all been amazing breakthroughs that improved visual quality, reduced cost, and dramatically spead us up… however, not everyone is technical enough as an artist to just pick up the tools and play with them.
That is the next leap I need to make in this industry… Make something anyone and everyone can use without needing to meticulously understand the 12 principals of animation in Disney’s Illusion of Life. or the many many more in the Animators Survival Kit. People should be able to make games without learning a complicated UI, they should learn to make games without a degree in software engineering…
People need to be able to do my job, without me telling them how to do it. That is the next evolution. For any kid to pick up a game engine, and be able to just play in it… with a sandbox of tools at their disposal. No one has done this yet, and I believe it’s time for the industry to send tools out into the cloud and let the people who love to play build the games they want to make. It is this idea (a way to do this) that has been swimming through my head for 2 years.
Part 4 – What Changed
As I wrote in “Match” the other day… the change in my life was a deliberate and calculated search for a woman who would stand by my side, and tell me… “You can do this”. She has given me hope… perspective… She even gave me “enlightenment” when it comes to showing what I want rather than fighting for it. This one person… who says so often “I love the way your brain works”. I believe the first time (of hundreds) that she said that to me started on our first meeting over coffee and stroll around a lake… When I suggested we start a company called “pelt your pets” where you can convert once beloved animals into fuzzy boots, leather belts, and if they are large enough, leather jackets… your bunny rabbit pet into fuzzy gloves… (of course after they pass away from natural causes)… this is something that for some reason I seem to be the only one who thinks is a great idea… other than the woman that beat me to it and had an online web site already (which I can no longer find)… I do want my tattoos removed, tanned, and framed when I pass (that or to have my body made into a really cool pair of leather coats for my kids… both of whom think that’s a terrible idea).
To call meeting this woman “serendipity” would be horribly false. For us to have found each other, you could say it was “luck” because we find one another pleasant…
The problem with the notion that this is all “luck” is to discount the amount of pain and suffering this road towards finding each other had along the way. It would be discounting all the times we jumped from a safe place across a crevasse and landed on the razor sharp rocks on the other side, because the path to each other went in that direction. All those painful leaps of faith with belief in ourselves that we could survive the jump. To call it chance… means we would have to believe we weren’t looking for one another our entire lives and cramming that wish onto every person we had intimate relations with as I stated emphatically in “Enlightenment”.
We could say it was luck that we both were open to searching at the same time, that we were single at the same time, but we both know we ended relationships to seek out one another… We could say it was serendipitous that we happened to live our lives separately and yet somehow find experiences that constantly reminded us who we were and were not… and what we truly needed in life and wanted in life was to find someone strong enough to walk with us, run with us, play with us… and leap across that canyon of safety to somewhere more dangerous if the path leads us home.
We both wanted someone who would never try to change our stripes to suit themselves. We still both know that we forged our souls through fire of pain into a kind of armor that the other one can wear proudly. Like a blacksmith dripping with sweat and staring into that fire every moment of every day and learning to live with the heat and the pain and sore muscles… Sculpting ourselves into who we are was a deliberate skilled and often a painful kind of art.
Part 5: the path
Was it serendipity that I found this job? Was it luck that I was “allowed” to build the tools I wanted to make animation? Was it fortune that allowed me to stumble on sharp jagged rocks to find the woman of my dreams? Was it some auspicious game of dice that allowed me to recognize the muse I found?
I don’t believe it was, I believe i entered this life with one goal… Becoming exactly the man I needed to be for this woman to fall in love with me, and keep me forever. I had to discover my soul in order to want her, find her,and be able to give her a life of security, protect her, heal her, make her smile every day (or at least try no matter how hard it is for her to find that smile), and spend the rest of my life loving her with intention…
Par 6 : Life doesn’t happen “to” us
You can call it fate, you can pretend it was luck… But I think we know better… We know that we have both climbed cliffs, traversed deserts, explored arctic cold, and walked through fire to find each other and this life we share. It was no accident, when you search this hard, work this hard… and decide not to give up on your dreams ever. Calling it an accident would make it sound like it was easy, and nothing easy is valuable.
I will leave Serendipity to our future… Holding her hand we will stumble upon all the delightful value of the world with our new eyes, that we keep wide open… We will accidentally rediscover pleasant things that we can now see unfiltered by our sadness and longing for one another. Serendipity will be our new life, in living color, in harmonious song… Life with her will be filled with the appearance of “luck” because as Sarah Connor so eloquently put it in “Terminator” there is “No fate but what we make”… Because true luck, is having the ability to recognize beauty already in front of you, and with her by my side the entire world suddenly has new value… My future suddenly has a bright beacon of light leading to happiness in every direction I look, because no matter which path we choose, we choose it together, and Home… is where I am whenever she is on my side.
Part 7: The magic words
Some people may say I perform magic tricks… and don’t show anyone how it’s done. Like in Kung Fu Panda – the secret to the magic “Dragon Warrior” scroll… is that “there is no Secret”… It is not “luck”… the world didn’t just happen to me… like all artists and all engineers, there is no luck when you work this hard… The magic formula is to recognize that given infinite time and infinite space YOU (not me… YOU… the person reading this…) can accomplish anything… Given limited time of this life… you don’t have a second to waste in sprinting down the path of your dreams. Do it… fearlessly… trust me on this the only regrets we have in life are the roads we saw to happiness that we were to afraid to take. Scars… those we can laugh about for the amazing gift of learning from failures…
As long as we never give up… we aren’t failing to live our dreams, we are just discovering 1000 ways not to reach them. Some day… everyone… and I mean everyone can have everything they want if they recite the magic phrases…
- “what one person can do… another can do…”
You won’t get what you want by sitting down in front of a TV and sorrowfully watching your heroes achieve greatness. You will achieve it by “suiting up” (I call it my super-suit… I wear the clothes for the job I want… which for me is “crazy mad scientist”)… Stop seeking wealth (it doesn’t exist), stop saying “i can’t”… stop pretending this world happens to you… Become the Hero of your own journey… look in the direction of the most frightening path to your dreams, and head towards it at a full sprint… Stop doubting yourself, stop doubting your ability. Remember… Failure is a valuable lesson. There is no such thing as luck. The universe owes you nothing… stop letting nothing happen to you. Create your happiness, be brave… wear all your scars and tattered armor over them like the badge of honor all those wounds were… like each and every dent was some great gift from the universe that showed you that your path needed slight correction. Don’t lie down… don’t ever say “die”… don’t ever discount yourself when you rehash your failures – tell them as glorious stories from the battlefield.
- “I am the hero of my own journey”
No one else should be the hero of your life. You are the center of the universe, and when you become the hero of your own story, you will become the hero for all those around you. Don’t rescue anyone from their journey, don’t stop anyone from learning from their pain… Shine the light for them and aim it in the direction of their happiness… then never be surprised when they run the other way into a brick wall they couldn’t see. Help them bandage their wounds, and then take that floodlight and point it the way you know they want to go.
- “The universe owes me nothing”
There is no such thing as a lucky person… stop believing that some people are just “born fit” or “born with skills I don’t have”. There is always a path towards doing what you love. You can sing Karaoke and have a blast in front of a crowd as long as you stand up proud and work your ass off, and entertain… no one will care if you can’t sing. If you still love to sing no one would fault you for taking singing lessons… What one person can do another can do.
Yes… you are handed cards that you must learn to play, but ask any professional poker player in the world… there is always a way… especially when you are surrounded by a bunch of people who believe they can only play the cards they were dealt… This universe doesn’t reward people who sit sadly at a table and think “I can only use the cards the universe handed me” – go invent your own deck… Like singers who suck who invented auto-tuners and can still write amazing music and sing it like an electric angel… The universe owes you nothing but time and even that isn’t a given, so stop sitting around bored, and start using every second of this life to chase your dreams no matter how scary it looks “out there”.
- “I am already perfect”
Stop changing yourself… Stop believing the naysayers who claim “You will never succeed”… The other gift my father gave me was to say “I am sure if you put your mind to something, no matter what it is you will be wildly successful” – at the time he meant that he had rarely seen me put my mind to anything but “stupid” things that could never pay (Dance, Martial Arts, Snowboarding, stop motion animation etc…). Today he has been proven wrong about those skills being useless but right that I would succeed at anything I tried… everything I ever wanted to do drove me towards this life, this career, and the love I have for the woman standing at my side. She is perfect, I am perfect… and so is everyone else in the world who stands up tall instead of shrugs and hides all their little perfect pieces.
Pronounced “schien sching schien yi” meaning “Whole Heart, Whole Mind”. Every single thing you do… from washing dishes, to cleaning your house, to love… everything… Put your entire soul into it. Be present in every moment… recognize and learn from every small mistake… make life a game of learning… always play. It is through this act that we will learn to live life deliberately. Boredom is a failure to recognize that you only have time in this life. If you sit bored, and sorrowfully wish for a better life to fall in your lap… if you chase money instead of life… You have already failed.
- Be Present in Love
It is only through offering unconditional love, that we find unconditional love. As I said in Evolution yesterday… You earn everything you have including love. You can’t “get it” and then “keep it”… You own nothing because anything you have can be taken from you (even life). Living in this world is something you do, not something you have and certainly not something you own, or are owed. This is the practice of being present in every moment of your life and focusing all your intent where you want it to go. For me… when my wife is present and wanting me to be… I just am. I am there, nothing comes before her (other than my kids)… and for her nothing comes before me (other than her children). This is what life is… it is unconditional submission to Time… We have no choice in the matter. So be present…
- Live YOUR life
It’s the only one you have…