Guys my age tend to look at their lives as a retrospective. They look back on past years of accomplishment and challenges overcome. They often bask in knowing they were able to beat the odds and create some pretty impressive things during their career. They take pride in a job hopefully well done.
I’ve never cared for looking back and much of my career remains a blur. Much of it, in my opinion, is really not worth remembering. While it’s pretty cool to have a few accomplishments under your belt that’s not what truly motivates me. I care about beginnings. I care about the first step and where it might lead. This is what motivates me, challenges me and excites me. I look back on many beginnings in my life. The first in-between sketch of Donald Duck that showed I could master the challenge of a Disney in-between and qualify for a job in the animation department. The first animated pencil test returned from camera that showed whether I had the chops to become a Disney animator. Then, there was that first day in Disney’s story department. It was a new beginning as my partner, Vance Gerry and I tried to sort out an effective storyline in the Disney film, “The Jungle Book.” With the passing of Walt Disney in that same year, I left the studio I loved for another new beginning. The launch of our own motion picture production company in Los Angeles. A lofty, ambitious plan for a group of kids still in their twenties. And, kids of color at that. But, what the hell. It was another new beginning.
I still get jazzed when I see a new start up move into their recently acquired office space or the pervasive enthusiasm that surrounds a new feature animated film or television series as it begins to ramp up. I remember the energized feeling of a new beginning, a new start and a step into the unknown. This is what has always excited me about this amazing business, and quite frankly, it never gets old. That’s because each new project is the beginning of an amazing journey. A journey where you never quite know the destination - but you know you’ll be going somewhere and it’ll be the best place ever. That’s why I love beginnings. That’s why I have little interest in the past.
Beginnings are hard to come by once you begin to age. Don’t expect to be invited to participate in beginnings of any kind when that happens. It’s not because you lack talent or experience. It’s simply because you’ve grown older, and that’s clearly a curse in today’s world. Even worse, it’s a guaranteed curse all will experience sooner or later. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, trust me, it will. Your company, no matter who your company happens to be will eventually cut you loose. They will offer you a generous separation package or some other incentive to get you out the door. Once an asset, you are now a liability and they can’t wait to say goodbye. I’ve spoken to a fair share of pals over the past few years who still smart at the indignity of being discarded by the company they loved. Sadly, I have to remind them that the company they once loved…has zero love for you. Get over it.
Here’s the good news. Beginnings don’t have to end. If you’re smart, resilient and resourceful you can create your own beginnings. Reinvent yourself. Redesign yourself and screw the corporation you worked for. Walk away and move forward on your own. If you’ve been booted out take this as a cue to get started. Begin a new task. Begin a new journey. Begin!