My daughter Emily and I went to Starbucks together to get some work done – I had writing to finish, and she had studying to complete. What a mistake! I always forget that I never get anything done when we go together. There’s too much watching people, sharing funny tweets, taking selfies (she is the one taking selfies, not me! Although she often gets me in the background, unbeknownst to me), noticing cute dogs outside, and doing whatever else keeps us from our tasks at hand.
Then she had to show me her favorite all-time video. She was giddy as she queued it up and untangled the ear buds. She then handed me one as she placed the other in her ear. Here it is:
We lasted for about 20 seconds before she had to pause it, as our laughter had triggered tears that streamed down our cheeks. I held my stomach, and her hands hid her face. Through the tears, she explained that she watches this periodically just to brighten her day. And she feels compelled to share it with the world. But she can never last more than 20 seconds or so at a time without having to stop and recover though. I quickly learned that I was grateful for that.
And she was truly grateful that I could appreciate this video. She actually thought I would think it was weird, I would shrug my shoulders, and I would get back to my work (which is what I do with most of the things she and her brother show me, truth be told).
But this is mesmerizing. Did you watch it? You have to watch it! Go watch it now if you haven’t.
How in the World Did This Get Made?
My first thought was “Who in the world comes up with stuff like this?” It’s such a simple idea, but still! Someone had to say, “Wouldn’t it be funny to have a lawnmower who dreams of flying?” I suppose I can see how a crazy idea like that would flash through the mind – I have ridiculous thoughts more often than I can count. But they are usually here and gone, sometimes barely noticed but always quickly forgotten.
This person not only had a fleeting thought, but he (yes, I understand it could be a she as well), stopped in his tracks and grabbed that thought before it could disappear. Then I am imagining him sitting with that thought for a bit, maybe chuckling to himself. But he sat with it just long enough that it firmly planted itself in his consciousness. And that is why it kept popping back up in his head every now and then.
At some point, he decided to turn the strange little idea into a reality. First, I am fascinated by someone’s ability to grab some of those transitory gems dashing through our heads at any moment. But I am even more captivated by the thought that someone would then go and spend the most precious resource, time, creating a video of his crazy idea.
This dumb little video inspires me so much!
Part of my problem is the way I was raised. Yes, this is my opportunity to blame my parents! No, it wasn’t my parents. It is the way most people are raised. Get a good job, work hard, stay loyal, and one day get the corner office. But whatever you do, do NOT let anyone take advantage of you. That meant do not work for nothing. So I didn’t!
Work vs. Passion
I guess it also has to do with our definition of “work.” I saw everything as work because I don’t think I really had a passion growing up. I thought I would like to do quite a few things, like writing and photography, but not without a paycheck. And I had no idea that others would be willing to do such things without getting money in exchange. Before the Internet, our worlds consisted of the people we personally knew and what they were willing to share with us. And I don’t remember anyone in my circle pursuing any serious passions. We also learn from books. And while I read voraciously, I read only fiction. It never occurred to me that I could learn something from a biography or even an autobiography.
My 16-year-old son plays baseball. He does not get paid for the work he does on the field and in the gym, but he would not consider that work. It’s his passion. And it’s an investment. Of course, my son hopes that one day he can turn that passion into money through a college scholarship. We shall see. But even if he never gets a dime from his years playing baseball, he will not regret the work put in.
It wasn’t until years later that I found myself willingly working for free. The Internet really changed my mindset. Suddenly I saw thousands of people posting their music online, music born from a dream, a passion, a longing. But not for money. They put the work in with no record label contract, no agent, no commitment from a radio station to play it. They just wrote and produced their songs. It was an investment.
I saw people making videos. Of course, we have millions of home videos crowding the Internet. That’s not what I’m talking about. I mean videos with a script, a cast, a production crew, and editors. Some people produce video series with multiple episodes and uploaded them on to YouTube. They do not get paid for their work. It’s a passion and an investment.
Recently, I have been attending film festivals. I had no idea this world even existed. I live in LA, so there are film festivals of one sort or another every week. And this is just one city. My sister is in St. Louis and has a son interested in film. They have discovered that there is a whole circuit of films festivals there as well. There is the International Film Festival, the Black Film Festival, the Jewish Film Festival, the Sham Film Festival, among others. Every city has them. That adds up to untold numbers of movies being made. And these are only the ones that made it into the festivals. Think of the countless ones that do not.
The few that I have attended have been filled with professional level productions. I was shocked, mostly because I know a little bit about what is required to put together such a film.
People are pouring resources into these videos and films, both time and money, with no guarantee of ever making money in return. It’s a passion. It’s an investment. It’s a risk.
Discovering My Passion
A few years ago, I started writing a non-fiction book. I was writing the story of a friend of mine who was involved in a very public, deadly train crash. I had written and published many articles but had never written a full-length book. Multiple friends warned me against doing this. I was advised that I should secure payment ahead of time. One friend was distraught at the thought of me putting in so much work and then possibly not seeing any money from it.
At the time, I had begun to understand the importance of the concept “Do what you love, and the money will follow.” I finally was understanding the importance of creating value and then getting paid on that value. At that point, I just needed to create value for myself by writing the book, before anyone believed in me or had a right to believe in me, quite frankly. I had something to prove first.
So I spent over a year writing most of the book – all but the ending. So it never got published, but it is still sitting on my shelf, and one day I will return to it.
I know there are those who thought I wasted my time. But here is what I learned. Writing that book, and organizing thousands of pages of information was the most difficult writing challenge I had ever faced. Just imagine for a moment how much I learned about writing and how much I learned about myself.
I am certain that writing this screenplay has been easier for me precisely because of my experience with that book, even though it is a completely different genre of writing. I have saved countless hours because of that experience.
Let’s get back to “Lawnmower Dreams.” I love the fact that someone had this crazy thought, then took the time to make a video, and posted it to YouTube. I love the fact that he (or she) did not wait for someone to pay him to take action. I love the fact that he used his free time to create a silly movie (that is also quite simply profound) rather than to throw away hours upon hours.
I love the spirit. And that’s why I write.
Dying to hear. It is just us? Let me hear your comments on “Lawnmower Dreams.”