In the article ‘The Late Bloomer’ which appeared in the October 2008 edition of the New Yorker Magazine, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of how writer Ben Fountain author of Brief Encounters With Che Guevara started his writing career.
Ben Fountain was an associate in the real-estate practice at the Dallas offices of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, just a few years out of law school, when he decided he wanted to write fiction. The only thing Fountain had ever published was a law-review article. His literary training consisted of a handful of creative-writing classes in college. He had tried to write when he came home at night from work, but usually he was too tired to do much. He decided to quit his job.
“I was tremendously apprehensive,” Fountain recalls. “I felt like I’d stepped off a cliff and I didn’t know if the parachute was going to open. Nobody wants to waste their life, and I was doing well at the practice of law. I could have had a good career. And my parents were very proud of me—my dad was so proud of me. . . . It was crazy.”
In this piece, Gladwell goes on to explain how Fountain continued his writing career with limited success before eventually writing his breakthrough work Brief Encounters With Che Guevara 18 years after he first sat down to write .
While this story might not be very inspiring on the surface,there are several lessons to be learnt from it.
First is debunking the idea that success comes overnight. The whole point Gladwell tried to stress in this article is how often we so easily associate genius with precocity. We hear stories of how Mozart wrote his breakthrough Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-Flat-Major at the age of twenty-one. What we miss is that success, genius,mastery or whatever term we call it does not as a rule come over night.It takes time.
But the most important lesson I guess from this story of how Fountain left his job, ‘his successful law practice’ to follow his dream as a writer despite the lack of preparation and skill.Who knows what would have happened if Fountain had stayed at his law practice? He would have spent many years being labelled ‘successful’ by society, his parents, but he would have been miserable. Wondering to himself what would have happened if he had listened to that voice telling him to step out.Ultimately, he chose to take the leap and do the thing he feared the most. He says, “I felt like I’d stepped off a cliff and I didn’t know if the parachute was going to open’.
The cost of a dream or life deferred is the price we pay for being miserable doing what we don’t love when we know deep in us the thing we should be giving to the world. Is there something specific we are all here to give to the world? or are we just here to work 9-5 or more, pay bills and retire at an old age wondering what we could have done with our life. Wondering what if? But we get overcome by fear. The fear of failure, of success. One fear is ‘what if I fail?’, I guess another fear is ‘What if I succeed?’ Why dont you find out?