I knew Taylor Swift growing up.
Like Ang Lee, for around 6 to 8 years Taylor acted in musicals, sang at festivals, entered competitions, and recorded demos. She was bad at first (sorry Taylor!), but she kept working at it. Every day, she was writing another lyric, or taking another guitar lesson, or auditioning for another play, or switching voice teachers. The reason I knew her was that I went to school with her (she was maybe in third grade when I was in 7th), I acted in plays with her, and I ran sound and make background tracks for her when she was 10 or so. I knew her mom and dad and brother too. I got to see her bildungsroman firsthand.
Then came her “overnight” success. And the press talked about her like she appeared on planet earth overnight. She was a sensation. All at once, you couldn’t walk outside your front door without hearing about Taylor Swift. It was surreal, having know the awkward girl from a few years earlier.
But what no one talked about was the years she forewent hanging out with other girls in middle school, watching TV and doing her hair with girlfriends in high school… all of the stuff that normal kids do. Playing sports, going on dates with boys… all of this was sacrificed. For Taylor, and Ang Lee, great sacrifice was made.
Success requires an obsession of sorts. You have to say, “I am going to accomplish this, come hell or high water.” Failure is not an option… it’s not even a word in the dictionary. There is only success. The buck has to stop with you; there’s no room for blaming other people, making excuses, or avoiding harsh realities. Whatever it takes to be successful, whether that’s hiring a speech coach, taking more classes at the university, learning etiquette, doing odd projects, finding a tutor, seeing a therapist, waking up at 6am to exercise… there is no limit. And that’s just the point — there is NO limit on what you have to be willing to undertake to achieve the goal.
I’ve grappled with what I’m going to say for years, but I now acknowledge it as a truism: If you stick with it, you’ll be successful. It doesn’t matter where you come from, who your parents are, what you know, who you know, or how you look. All that is required is a choice — a commitment to excellence.
Therefore, there’s only one rule in making it to the top: don’t quit.
— thejerz @ news.yc
100 followers. :)
Aaron’s magic was that he believed that that and so much else could change. More than that he believed that he could change it — that he could change the world. And he was right. By last Friday he’d already changed the world in so, so many ways. I’m very sad about what happened at many, many levels, and one of them is that I’m so sad that we’ll never see all the ways that he would have changed the world from here on out.
If you’re in the tech sector, why are you there? What do you really believe in? If you believe that technology is making the world a better place, why do you believe that? Do you really understand what makes the world a bad place to begin with? I’m serious. If you’re in this room and you work in the technology sector, I’m asking you that question. Do you understand what makes the world a bad place to begin with? Have you ever spent time with and listened to the people your technology is supposed to be helping? Or the people it might be hurting?
— Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman’s eulogy at the Aaron Swartz NYC Memorial Service.
And this I believe: that the free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world. And this I would fight for: the freedom of the mind to take any direction it wishes, undirected. And this I must fight against: any idea, religion, or government which limits or destroys the individual. This is what I am and what I am about.
— John Steinbeck