Received this wonderful article from a friend, a fellow film maker, foodie, writer, Amit Mehra:
The biggest mistake of my life was giving fuel to the idea I had when I was all of 9 years old, that I wanted to be India’s Steven Spielberg. That idea of a pre-teen mind was thoughtlessly fuelled and converted into a misplaced long cherished dream during all of my growing up years and then as a young professional working in the film, television and advertising Industries in India. In fact, that dream was finally dispersed only when I reached my mid 30’s, mid life of my career. I had wasted 20 odd years of my life, burning myself up chasing a lie, a delusion or at best an unrealistic dream.
Dreams, ambitions, aspirations are an essential part of human development and play a pivotal role in defining our goals, educational and later professional choices. We are encouraged by our families, friends, teachers, coaches, gurus, mentors and everyone at different stages of our lives to dream, have ambitions and inculcate aspirations for a better, more successful and happy life. Nothing wrong with that except, they often forget to teach you or we forget to learn about the concept of boundaries that filter dreams, ambitions and aspirations from outright delusions.
I was one of those, who did not have that filter till much later in my life and trust me, I paid a heavy price for it. This is not a cautionary tale anyone from any walk of life, should take lightly, least of all those in the most fickle creative industries with acute disparity of opportunities on offer, dismal rate of success and even lesser percentage of longevity.
When I landed in Bombay (now Mumbai) in early 90’s, fuelled by this dream which I much later realized was a delusion, I did not know that I was heading for disaster, both professionally, personally and ofcourse financially, physically and psychologically as well.
All through my film school I was like a young man with stars in my eyes, waiting impatiently to meet this assumed success, status, position as if its lurking around the corner, instead of putting my head down and being just a student of cinema, which is all that I was.
Later as a young professional entering the work force of film Industry, then later advertising and broadcast television, I had only one goal – to become Steven Spielberg of India. Almost seems, so nice, innocent, child like and many reading this may think and ask – what is wrong with that? After all it is natural for children, young people to aim high, think big and may even cite some examples of incredible success stories that started just with dreams like that.
They won’t be wrong except; success does not have a scalability model that gets enabled by sharing a common dream with super successful people and super achievers.
Everyone has a different path which is a sum total of their upbringing, education, mental and physical development, discipline, genetics, experiences, surroundings, socio-economic backgrounds, the times they have grown up and lived in, the mentors, gurus they had, the opportunities they encountered and many such factors which are huge variables from one person to another. What could be a realistic dream to have for one person may be a complete delusion to harbor for another. The key to a successful satisfied and happy life is not just having a dream but also educating self about the boundary that separates dream from delusion.
As a young professional, I made some terrible professional choices, luckily not all, chasing this dream (delusion) of becoming India’s Spielberg. To begin with, this immediately disconnected me with realities prevalent in India at that time, not just in the film, television or advertising Industries but also of audiences for such. I was at loggerheads with the content being produced then and thought lowly of preferences of producers of such content and those of audiences who are patrons of such. Thus started the muddling of the mind.
Suddenly, no opportunity, jobs, assignments were good enough for a beginner with no Godfather, no lineage and no connections, no background whatsoever in this strange city and living on borrowed money from his parents and favours from few kind friends. Instead of just putting my head down and clocking the hours of experience, taking up whatever opportunities came my way in whatever capacity, I already had an ego of this mythical India’s Spielberg. I would waste months chasing opportunities, jobs, positions that were just not available for someone like me in those times instead of focusing on the ones that were.
Luckily, I would get momentary sense of reason and take up assignments that did land up teaching me many of the skills and craft I do possess till date and have helped me shape the career I have had. I am grateful for those opportunities and bosses who were like teachers and mentors. However, even in those assignments, some part of my head was always in the cloud, chasing that delusion. As a result, I was never happy where I was, no matter how good a place that was for someone like me. I always wanted to be somewhere else. Where? I had no idea. Why? Because that place does not exist, never did.
One of the directors, I was assisting on a feature film project, once told me that maybe I will become a good director (big maybe) but I was not a great assistant director because I was not good in taking and following orders. I was not good in that because in my delusional head I was destined to be Spielberg and all the jobs I was doing were just for me to bide my time and maybe learn a few tricks or so. At that time, I did not much care for process, guidelines, rules, protocols and systems as if they did not somehow apply to me. Needless to say that it was a huge mistake. You can’t break, modify and redefine any of that without first learning, following and living by those, within those. As far as I was concerned, I was ready to direct my magnum opus the day I landed in Bombay. Do you see now how the delusion works?
I could have shared the wisdom I am trying to share with all of you through many such stories of my seniors, peers or juniors that I encountered throughout my professional life. However, I chose to tell my own story because that is what we can do best; tell our own stories. That was another area that was beneath my delusions chasing mind.
I wanted to tell stories on subjects that impact the world, universe even but stories inspired by own life, experiences, surroundings, upbringing, roots, background, relationships, joys and pain were too ‘small’ for the Indian Spielberg universe that I was bent on creating for myself. Little realizing that Spielberg was always telling his own stories or inspired by the factors unique to his life experiences and continues to do that till date, irrespective of the scale of his films. Much like any good filmmaker, storyteller, author or artist of any discipline.
Sad truth is that I had such diverse, rich, joyful, painful and enthralling experiences even as a boy growing up in northern state of Uttar Pradesh and Delhi that my bag of stories was always overflowing, bursting at the seams. All of which was invisible to the unrealistic dream AKA delusion chasing man, even if it was burning tyres of vehicle of his life in doing so. Such is the power of mind. If you use it wisely with open ears and eyes, it can do wonders. With eyes shut and ears blocked to any warnings, your own mind can be your biggest enemy.
I have wised up a great deal since I finally hit rock bottom around my mid 30s and the financial, physical, psychological shock that it generated, burst the delusional bubble clouding my mind. However, I can never get those precious years back or what they could have made me contribute to my passion. And though I live in eternal hope that perhaps someday I will get around to telling my stories from the bag that was invisible to me till I was living under the ‘Spielbergian’ delusion, fact is, many of those stories are lost to time and space.
So that’s the price you pay for festering delusions because you never learned the boundaries that separate them from dreams, ambitions and aspirations.
My biggest learning out of all this is that what we must do, all of us, from any walk of life but especially creative people and everyone from the creative industries; is have a step wise development of our dreams, ambitions and aspirations.
Metaphorically, think of yourself on a journey from one end of the world to the other. Don’t plan the entire trip even before embarking on such a long, unpredictable journey, possibly filled with obstacles, diversions, pitfalls, setbacks and breakdowns. While starting off, just plan for the next stop. Once you reach there, evaluate yourself, your performance, your choices, opportunities and capabilities and then chart out the path for your next destination, next stop.
If you have an open healthy mind, always seeking realistic goals, any of these stops could signal to you, that you have not reached a pit stop but your destination and therefor, celebrate your arrival, be happy with what you have achieved and contribute to make that destination better than what it was when you arrived there.
Also, this does not mean, that you’ll never leave that destination. Life is unpredictable like any great story. You never know what lies beneath the surface you walk on or around the corner from where you have chosen to pitch your tent. Keep your ears, eyes and mind open but focus on where you are, who you are and what you do. Enjoy the moment; be proud of and live in your present, worry less of and live even lesser in the past or the future.
Lastly, when you find your day job only takes up part of your productive time, chase those unrealized dreams and passions in the spare time. You never know, you may reach where you always wanted to be, as far as it was a realistic dream, ambition, aspiration and not delusion.
AMIT MEHRA – Author PROFILE
Amit Mehra is an artist, writer, filmmaker and founder at AMP ANGLES: 15 year old Video Content Creative Agency based in Mumbai, India. Their professional interests range from cinema, digital content to advertising.
Apart from films and advertising, Amit also writes on social issues, politics, relationships, films and arts for various online portals and blogs.
Amit is a foodie, cook and has recently launched a cooking show web series on YouTube called The Slow Fire Chef (@TheSlowFireChef on twitter/Instagram), first episode was selected by Stuttgart India International Film Festival. It can be viewed here on the festival's website here.
He is also the founder of popular Foodies Meet-up group in Mumbai called FoodieBoozard (@FoodieBoozard on Twitter/Instagram) and a prolific food, travel blogger on Twitter and Instagram (@amitmehra).