Passion, Hard Work and Art

Yesterday I read the latest jobs report from the government.  It was so-so news, not terribly bad nor a sign of better days ahead.    I read also that so many jobs these days are lower paying service jobs.  The percentage of higher paying jobs is shrinking.    Young people out of school, even with solid college degrees are finding it hard to find worthy jobs.

In this light, my daughter is ready to go back for her third year of college.  She is an art student.

Where will she work once she graduates?   I had someone at work recently tell me that she needs to stop the art and get going with nursing or similar to assure she gets a job once she graduates.   It is simple.  My daughter is not a nurse.  She is an artist.  She creates beautiful pieces of art – either drawing, painting and now writing.   I am very proud of her and she is on a good path.

This post is about following your dream.  You fight and fight some more for what you want out of life.

Last night my daughter passed along a post containing a hand-written letter from Pete Docter.  Who is Pete Docter?  Well, he is one of the key guys at Pixar Animation Studio and was the Director of Monsters, Inc. and Up.  He later won an Academy Award for Up.  He is an animator, storyteller and as you will read here, a cool dude who never gave up.

Pixar’s studio is nearby to my home here in the Bay Area.  My daughter is making contacts and is working hard to earn an internship there next summer.  It is her dream and focus to be a conceptual artist at Pixar.

Pete’s letter is pure inspiration for my daughter and guess what, me too.  I share it with you today with the hope it inspires you a bit as well.  The back story is cool.   The source of the letter is from a Middle School Teacher, Mr. Kelsey.  He writes to celebrities and asks them to write back with advice for his kids.  Peter Docter did indeed write back with this wonderful letter of inspiration.  Here is a link to the hand-written letter.

Dear Mr. Kelsey,
What would I tell a class of Middle School students?

When I was in Middle School, I liked to make cartoons. I was not the best artist in my class — Chad Prins was way better — but I liked making comic strips and animated films, so after High school it was no surprise that I got into The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a school that taught animation.

CalArts only accepts 25 students a year, and it attracts some of the best artists in the country. Suddenly I went from being one of the top artists in my class to being one of the absolute worst. Looking at the talented folks around me, I knew there was no way I would make it as a professional. Everyone else drew way better than I did. And I assumed the people who were the best artists would become the top animators.

But I loved animation, so I kept doing it. I made tons of films. I did animation for my friends’ films. I animated scenes just for the fun of it. Most of my stuff was bad, but I had fun, and I tried everything I knew to get better.

Meanwhile, many of the people who could draw really well kind of rested around and didn’t do a whole lot. It made me angry, because if I had their talent, man, the things I would do with it!

Years later, a lot of those guys who probably still draw really well don’t actually work in animation at all. I don’t know what happened to them. As for me, I got hired at Pixar Animation Studios, where I got to work on Toy Story 1 and 2, direct Monsters, Inc., and Up (due out May 29th this year).

So, Middle School Student, whatever you like doing, do it! And keep doing it. Work hard! In the end, passion and hard work beats out natural talent. (And anyway, if you love what you do, it’s not really “work” anyway.)

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2 thoughts on “Passion, Hard Work and Art

  1. Great post Michael and your finish nails it: Work hard! In the end, passion and hard work beats out natural talent. (And anyway, if you love what you do, it’s not really “work” anyway.)

  2. Thanks David. As I watch the Olympics I hope people understand that it is just not talent. These folks work very, very hard. For the younger generation – yep, hard work and focus will take you far.

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