Steel mill or show biz?
James was born in Ontario, Canada in 1962, the youngest son of Kathleen, a homemaker, and Percy, a musician and accountant.
From a young age, James loved comedy, particularly impersonations. He had a dream to go into show business. At the age of ten, he wrote a letter to TV star Carol Burnett stating that he was already a master of impressions and should be considered for a role on her show.
James’s father, Percy, had a dream, too — to play jazz saxophone in a band. There was nothing he loved more.
But as a young father, Percy decided he needed to do the “practical” thing. He quit music and took a job as an accountant.
When Jim was twelve years old, his father was laid off from his “safe” job. They were forced to do whatever they could to survive. They moved into a tiny camper. James quit high school and, with his parents and two of his three siblings, did janitorial work.
This was a pivotal moment for James. After observing what happened to his father, he chose to follow his dream and live his purpose, which he says is to “free people from concern” through comedy.
The millions of people who have seen James’s performances are grateful for his purpose.
You know him as Jim Carrey, one of the most popular and well-paid comedic actors of all time.
Later in life he was asked to speak at a college graduation. In his speech he made a powerful observation:
“So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. My father…didn’t believe [his dream] was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice…
“I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you could fail at what you don’t love, so you might as well take a chance on doing that you love.”
What I didn’t share with you is Jim’s journey to make it into show biz. No red carpet was rolled out for him when he started — he had to climb through the ranks like everyone else. He struggled for years. He experienced heartache and disappointment. He was rejected time after time.
Living his purpose wasn’t easy. It was hard and painful for him, just as it is for all of us.
But life could have been much worse for him. In an interview in 2007, he said, “If my career in show business hadn’t panned out I would probably be working today in Hamilton, Ontario at the Dofasco steel mill.”
That would have been the “safe” choice — to go after the “secure” job. But can you imagine what a tragic waste of talent that would have been?
Yes, living purpose is hard and painful. But so is not living it. Either way is painful, so choose into the pain with the greatest potential reward.
You, too, have your “steel mill” security and your “show biz” dream. Which will you choose? Will you choose the pain of purposeful struggle, or the pain of fearful regret?
If you’re going to struggle regardless, you might as well struggle doing something you love. If you have no guarantee of success on either path, you might as well do it for the love now instead of the hope of eventual success.
“But what if it doesn’t work out?”
“What if I’m not good/smart/talented enough to make it work?”
“What if I don’t know how to do it?”
“What if I can’t make enough money doing it?”
“What if I fall flat on my face?”
“What if people make fun of me?”
“What if no one cares?”
Yes, those are all possibilities. But so what?
Counteract all your deep-seated fears and anxiety-ridden questions with these questions:
“How will I feel if I don’t do it?”
“What will be the consequences — both for myself and others — if I don’t try?”
“Is the prospect of security more important than the bliss of purpose?”
And here’s the big one:
“Knowing I’m going to die, what matters most?”
As Jim Carrey said,
“How will you serve the world? What do they need that your talent can provide? That is all you have to figure out. The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is. Because everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart. And all that will be left of you is what was in your heart.”
You have a purpose in your heart. Don’t let it die in the “steel mills” of fearful security. Bring it to life in the “show biz” of purposeful bliss.