Now, Mark had just asked Hailey to be his girlfriend. Boy was she kind to him.
There are plenty of versions of this story where the girl laughs, or points, or both. This wasn’t one of those times.
But you could see him deflate as she hugged him and walked back to her friends. (Again, cool girl.)
I remember seeing him in band practice later that day. Dude did NOT look happy.
It was like someone had run over his dog right in front of him.
He packed up his instrument and stormed out of the band room faster than usual. I walked out to find him to see how he was doing. By the time I got there, I saw him slumped against the brick wall exterior of the building, cradling his right hand.
“Dude, what happened???”
“She said no.”
“No, I mean what happened.”
I punched the wall…”
I like to say that Mark reached “the boss level” of his high school love life and came out completely defeated. You know, in video games like Super Mario, you’d progress from level to level, things got progressively harder, but then you’d reach the last level and suddenly it got MASSIVELY harder? You’d have to attempt that Boss Level a number of times before you could ever defeat it.
I’m serious here when I say that Mark’s story is your story.
Let me tell you one other Mark story and see if it helps drive the point home.
Sometime in our Junior or Senior year of high school, Mark came to me with an idea he had.
He was SUPER into Star Wars. He’d seen all the movies many times, read all the books, and even had a definitive answer about who shot first. (It was Han until George Lucas changed it…)
So, this idea. He wanted to write a novel set in the world of Star Wars.
All I can remember is that his story was super compelling. At least to my 16-year-old self.
With that little bit of encouragement from my positive reaction, he set off writing the book.
Yet, 20 years later…still no book.
While I doubt he punched a wall in frustration over it, at some point he reached “the boss level” for this creative project.
I’m talking about an obstacle too great for him to overcome with the tools he had – emotional, creative, physical or otherwise.
I’ll talk more about these tools in a little bit.
For now, it’s important to notice that this is the same thing that happened to him with Hailey.
He had a desire to change something in his life.
He made a choice to go after it.
He faced challenges along the way but overcame them.
Yet, at some point the obstacle seemed too great, he “failed the boss level”, and never tried again.
I’m sure I’ve oversimplified the most traumatic experience from Mark’s high school years. So I’m gonna pull a George Lucas and make up an excuse: I simply have a point to make.
With his book idea, Mark had a desire to create something new.
He made a choice to go after it, even wrote a few pages.
He faced challenges along the way, but as the resistance or obstacles became too powerful, he gave up.
He never tried again.
I have a question for you.
You don’t know Mark. You have no obligation to care about him, right?
But despite that, don’t you still want Mark to succeed?
Well, I can tell you that Mark is now happily married with three beautiful children. He didn’t give up on finding love and creating the family he wanted.
Somehow he managed to get up from that wall, get surgery on his hand, recover, and try again. He returned to that boss level and came out victorious.
But why not the same for his creative life?
Why is it so much harder to create something?
Like I said earlier, every creative that I’ve coached over the last 2 years has gone through this exact same journey.
They have something they want to make – a new project, a change to their career – but they’ve reached a point where the obstacles are too great. They hit that boss level and are given a choice – give up or try again.
On the next page, I’ll tell you how successful creatives get back up.