Kid musicals are the worst.
Can you imagine: waking up and saying, “I have to see that awful musical being put on by 10 year olds today instead of doing anything else in the entire world.”
But it reminds me of a story.
Theodore Geisel ‘s first book “And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street” came out in 1937. It had been rejected 26 times by publishers.
This is one of those stories of: and then it got accepted. Because it did. On the 27th time.
I would’ve given up. Probably #20. I would’ve said: “I’m no good at this”. And I would’ve switched to something else.
There’s nothing wrong with switching. In fact, I did switch.
I wrote novels, they got rejected. I switched. I’m a quitter and a switcher. A quit-switcher.
But then I did other things that I loved. And I got a little better at them. I was a quit-switcher but not a switch-quitter.
I kept switching until I found something I loved.
People write me and say, “I give up. I failed”. They are very depressed. I ask them their age. 22. Sometimes they are 52. It doesn’t matter.
It’s ok to jump from table to table, knocking everything off. To Quit and Switch. Quit and Switch.
You don’t need to submit the 27th time.
The problem is this: when you first do something you love, you realize how bad you are at it.
Because you love work done by masters while you are still an amateur.
So you are too stupid to quit but smart enough that you see the huge gap between you and someone who is good.
You close the gap with love and persistence. That’s why persistence + love = mastery.
Persistence means you get 1% better every day, no matter how you add it up. Love means you begin to see the subtleties that nobody else sees.
From there it takes a long time. A lot of persistence and a lot of love. If you don’t have the persistence and love, it’s ok to quit-switch.
Persistence and Love are not about fame. Or not about money. It’s like a kiss. Two people afraid at first, stumbling unsure.
It might take many kisses. You search. You fumble around. Finally, it’s about the moment where you meet each other in the middle.
I didn’t have enough faith in myself. I didn’t have enough faith in my work. I didn’t have enough faith in a system where a handful of people could reject me. So I didn’t love and I didn’t persist.
All of that has changed now. There’s a new system — a system without gatekeepers. And there are things I love enough to try and find the subtleties that were once hidden.
If Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) gave up on the 26th try we would never have his second book: The Cat in the Hat. We would have no Grinch and no Green Eggs.
There wouldn’t be my father reading, “Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?” as I fell to sleep. Long before he became mentally ill when he would forget his own luck.
Last year, according to Brian Grazer’s book, “A Curious Mind” (I highly recommend), Dr. Seuss’s books sold almost 4 million copies even though he’s been dead for 25 years.
This weekend I watched my daughter perform as “The Cat in the Hat” in the local musical “Seussical”.
If Dr. Seuss hadn’t tried that 27th time I wouldn’t have seen her light up the stage. It made me happy to see that. I’m glad Dr. Seuss tried the 27th time.
“The Cat in the Hat” is a mischievous character. He teaches the little kids to break the rules. If you worry too much about the future, you can’t enjoy your now.
Dr. Seuss knew that. He taught us that. I try to remember.
That when someone says “No” to you, you’re allowed to ask (silently or not) “Why?” and “Why not?”
I hate plays. I hate musicals. I hate sitting for 90 minutes on uncomfortable chairs in uncomfortable gyms.
I also dislike failure porn: “if so-and-so didn’t submit that last time there would be no Grinch, no Harry Potter, no Luke Skywalker, no Google, no light bulb.”
It’s ok to not make that final try. To live your life the way you want. To try many things. To love many types of subtlety. It’s only when you quit switching that you begin to die.
But I’m glad Theodore Geissel had faith and persistence. So I could watch my baby girl, maybe for the last time, sing and dance like a great big cat.