The Long Climb Down To Success

It's something I hear talked about every now and then in geek and fan circles: the person who made it who looks down on their past.  They deny they wrote fanfic, try to forget their earlier artistic efforts, don't acknowledge their roots.  The complains usually involve the person in question looking down on people who do the very things they did to launch their careers; writing fanfic or for free, the oddball cosplay outfits, the years of grinding out boring web code.

My guess is you're nodding as you hear this.

I'd like to note not only are people who act like this arrogant, I think they're missing the point of doing what you love: it's not climbing up the mountain of success, it's about descending into what you truly love and embracing it.

You can't really succeed at what you like, do what you care about, without embracing it.  If you want to write you have to truly write like a maniac and live your vision.  If you want to be a programmer you'll program anything.  If you want to be an artist you'll draw.  If you love anime you'll go to embarrassing lengths to get an ideal episode or special collectible.  If you love music you will travel to see that band.

Really caring about something means diving on into it.

Somewhere along the way this diving on in often means success.  It rallies your passion.  It makes you connections.  It gives you knowledge.  These experiences and educations and projects merge together to build your foundation of success – perhaps a great success.  Few people indeed succeed by saying "well I like this but I don't really love it."

Something in our culture seems to encourage us to regret our formative experiences, our geeky pasts, our first efforts.  We're somehow supposed to be ashamed of the very things that led us to our dizzying heights.  We're supposed to be "above" the very roots we have, the people we came from, the cultures that inspired us.

We're told success somehow makes us different or better and we must be ashamed of the past, ashamed of what got us there.  Even before we succeed in our careers, we're perhaps already thinking of leaving behind the "shame" of the fanfic, the fanart, the websites we did for cheap, the convention we spent years doing.

It's as if success is escaping from . . . what made you.

I say forget that.  It's dishonest, its hypocritical, it discourages us from cultivating other talent.  It makes us into asses and can ruin or legacies.  It also cuts off the very source of our success as we try to get away from it – and ask yourself how many people have you seen reach success temporarily, or as a one-shot wonder, and then fade away (often while being pretentious jerks).

Wave your geek flag high and be honest.  You'll be happier, probably more successful, and face it, people won't grow to hate you.

– Steven Savage