When I was 21, I wrote a screenplay called “Bull and Chain”.
Set in the south, it was about a 70 year old rodeo clown named Jib and his romantically-inept family.
In his will, Jib offers up a million dollar inheritance to whichever one of this 3 kids marries first.
I thought it was the sh*t.
My golden ticket to Hollywood fame.
I was 4 months into the game. It was my first effort.
And after a series of cold email pitches (my first copywriting gig), I got a response from a producer.
He read it.
Offered me 5K for the production rights — with a 50K bonus if it went into production.
Informed by a recent episode of Entourage, I insisted on 500K upfront and 10% of back-end revenue.
I mean… what if this was my best work?
My magnum fucking opus?
A tour-de-force that could never be replicated no matter how many Starbucks refills and 20 year single malts my sprightly young self could handle.
I stood my ground.
He rejected my counter with an anti-climatic phone click.
“His loss”, I reassured myself in-between scribbling lines for my Oscar acceptance speech in my mother’s basement.
His. Fucking. Loss.
So what happened?
“Bull and Chain” never sold.
It’s still on my hard drive. Has shitty jokes about Tiger Woods, the KGB, and other things that went out of style around the same time as faux-hawks.
it wouldn’t be till a half decade later till someone actually paid me for my work.
Here’s the thing:
“What holds us back isn’t grossly overvaluing our work…
… but tragically underestimating our innate, and ever-expanding capacity to produce more (and better) expressions of it.”
A stealth, yet silently crippling form of what the modern personal growth crowd would call a “scarcity mindset”.
You see, this whole “scarcity” thing doesn’t just relate to that “holy fuck how will I justify this Range Rover purchase to my partner” investment you’ve been resisting.
It’s a compulsive, borderline pathological hoarding.
A violent self-repression of the most tragic order.
An inner and outer barricading of what you wrongly-perceive to be a finite and limited resource.
… your love
… your money
… your creative expression
… your mind-blowing insight
… the idea or strategy that could push your industry forward
… your genius
Here’s the takeaway:
Your art. Your work. Your love.
Your ideas and insights.
They are abundant.
They don’t rack up interest by sitting in your internal bank account.
They appreciate in value as they touch, ignite, and inter-mingle with the people they were meant to serve.
Grasping this is hard.
Living it, even harder.
Sometimes I wonder if Paul McCartney thought he’d be a one-hit wonder 89 fucking times.
And even today, 14 years removed from the Bull & Chain fiasco, I still feel that familiar clench in my gut every time I take on a new project or launch a new program.
… “What if this screenplay will be the best I ever write”
… “What if that last launch was the most successful I’ll ever help a client produce?”
… “What if this program is the highest form of genius i’ll ever be capable of releasing?”
… “What if that idea/lesson/reflection I shared with that client was the closest thing to canonical scripture that ever spills from my mouth?”
With every new project, program or momentary burst of expression, I’m met with this inflection point.
A moment of deadly calm before the front lines begin to converge.
I’ll stand there like a soldier of fortune.
A mercenary being called back into battle, wondering if I could dodge another bullet and come home with the spoils.
I’ll trade punches with my resistance until my arms grow weary, and I allow them to finally settle into a gentle embrace with the greater truth.
That it’s only by liquidating your best work today — your life’s most vital expressions – that your best opportunities can come tomorrow.
Cause one day… a day not so unlike this one right here… one of those bullets will clip me.
The front lines will swallow me whole.
And as long as life keeps re-filling my cartridge with life-giving, creative expression…
… I plan to fire away, and walk away empty.
This is my vow.
And one I invite you to join me in.