Wednesday, July 22, 2009

So, what's next?

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

It's a question they hound you with from the very first time you set foot into a classroom. At that point in life, the possiblities seemed limitless.

Astronaut.

Lawyer.

Professional baseball player.

Optimus Prime (or Optimus Prime's sidekick).

TV news anchor.

All these professions were considered by this young man. He was a great kid. Smart, funny, well-intentioned. And he dreamed big. Really big.

Being an astronaut would be awesome, right? The freeze-dried ice cream! The weightlessness! The odd encounter with Klingons!

Or a lawyer...they fought for the little guy when no one else would! They solved crimes! What could be better than that!?

Oh...oh...a pro baseball player! You play a game for kids and get paid a lot of money for it (like, thousands of dollars!).

Optimus Prime's sidekick. Now there's a great job. You wouldn't even care what you got paid...your best friend transforms into a giant robot!

A TV news anchor. What could be better than giving the people the news they need? You'd get to talk. People would get to listen. And everyone would know who you were!

Those expectations weren't exactly realistic, were they?

Well, except for maybe the Klingon part.

As the years added up, that little boy continued to dream big, but the jobs changed, if just a bit.

Radio announcer.

TV sports guy.

Sportswriter.

The expectations were a bit more realistic.

Being a radio announcer would be great, but the format is dying and most stations are turning to satellite feeds.

Getting paid to cover sports as a TV guy would be terrific, until you understand the hours and the amount of travel. Plus, the "getting paid" part doesn't kick in until you've been to several different markets. You don't start trading quips with our Sportscenter co-host on day one.

Then there's sportswriting. This was meant in the traditional sense...writing for a newspaper or Sports Illustrated. The expectations here combine the worst of being a radio announcer and a TV sports guy...low pay, lots of travel, a dying profession.

Still, despite the drawbacks, all these seemed within reach. The young man went to college, honed his craft, and was able to do all of those jobs (sometimes simultaneously!). And when people asked him what he wanted to be, he'd say, "I know it's not the easiest thing, but I'd like to be a play-by-play guy."

He worked for a local sports radio station during college. He worked for the college radio station, TV station, and newspaper. He seemed ready for world domination.

The first job was easy to get...almost too easy. A local TV station in Indianapolis hired him to write the news. The pay seemed decent enough and the opportunities seemed endless. They even put him on TV a few times.

After several years, that news writer became a TV news producer. The pay was upgraded (ahem...slightly) and the responsibilities increased. For a time, he stopped dreaming big.

After all, sending out several demo reels to TV stations didn't seem to work out. The field was too crowded.

He settled.

But, being a big dreamer, "settling" isn't what he wanted. So again, as he had as a child and as he had as a high school and college student, so he would do as an adult.

He dreamed big.

Only this time, his goal wasn't to become a talking head on ESPN or the play-by-play voice of the Indianapolis Colts (both jobs he would be more than happy to take)...he wanted to be an author.

A novelist.

And so he began churning out page after page of everything he liked...sports, science fiction, superheroes, and time travel...each project more ambitious than the one before. And he dreamed big that somewhere in that great media lottery that is book publishing, someone would notice his work.

For while the specifics may change...astronaut, Optimus Prime's sidekick, radio announcer, sportswriter...the goal never does.

Dream big.

Go after it.

But this time...don't ever stop.