I’ve quit nearly everything I’ve started—Here’s why
I’ve tried my hand at many creative endeavors. I gave up on all of them except for this blog.
Here’s the timeline.
2010, high school: a punk rock band with my friends. 2015, summer: standup comedy. 2016, in college: theatre. 2018, winter: a podcast about people’s passions. 2019, fall: this blog and a YouTube channel about self-improvement. 2020, fall: a daily vlog. 2021, winter: sketch comedy videos
Clybourne Park, 2016.
Aside from acting, which I was deeply passionate about, each of these pursuits ended the same way. (I’ll tell the story of why I quit theatre in another blog.) The process went like this.
First, I would get inspired by other people whose skills I enjoyed. In high school, it was Blink 182. For standup, it was Louis CK. I started vlogging because of Casey Neistat.
I wanted to be as talented as these guys. I envisioned myself on stage captivating crowds or being recognized on the street by one of my million subscribers.
So I’d start the thing.
I learned every 2000s pop-punk song on guitar I could. I forced myself to sign up for an open mic. I bought a camera and microphone and started recording.
It was always exhilarating. For a week or two.
But each time, reality would quickly settle in. That reality was: If I want to get good at this thing and have other people enjoy it, it’s going to take a ton of time, consistency, and persistence through being mediocre.
Basically, I would suck at something and wouldn’t get the results I wanted fast enough. Then it would rapidly feel more like a chore than a passion project. Once the Resistance grew tall enough, I couldn’t justify continuing to work on it. I’d stop enjoying it or begin dreading it entirely.
The worst part about this cycle was it would make it difficult to trust myself. When I’d feel interested in a new venture, I’d think in the back of my mind, “But how long do you think this will actually last?” Then I’d hesitate to start.
Our Blink 182 cover band setting up, 2011.
So why does this happen?
I mentioned it above briefly, but the answer is quite simple: it’s due to unmet expectations.
We see the thing we want: fame, glory, high-quality entertainment. Then we go for that thing.
But as we start to put our heads down and do the work, we see that the things we wanted are hidden behind countless hours of grinding practice, boring or stressful tasks, and little to no recognition. It’s all the unsexy stuff we never see from those we admire.
When I wanted to be a standup comedian, I wasn’t fantasizing about all the empty clubs I’d bomb in at 2am. I just wanted a Netflix special.
When I started vlogging, I didn’t think about how many hours a day it would take to think of something interesting, film it, and edit it in a fun and captivating way. All I wanted was a following and ad revenue.
If our goals are the end results, we’ll never make it. It’s unsustainable to be driven by money, subscriber count, or viewership. Because when we start, we’re pretty bad at whatever it is we’re doing. So those incentives will naturally take a very long time to experience.
Let’s look at the only thing I’ve stuck with from that list above: this blog.
From day 1, I never cared about how many people were reading it. For the first several months, it was just me and one supportive friend. I still loved it.
Because I cherished the process. There was never a result in mind.
Now, this blog has way more subscribers. So I obviously feel more inclined to make it good and worth reading. But at the end of the day, I just get joy from typing my thoughts out a few times each week.
The first podcast I ever recorded, 2018.
So when we’re thinking about pursuing something new and creative, I’ve learned it’s crucial to ask this simple question: Do I actually want to do this work, or am I just craving the end result?
In other words: Am I okay if no one cares about this for the first year of doing it?
If the answer is no, it might be worth reconsidering.