My friend Krystin sent me a link to a letter from Pete Docter, one of the key animators and directors at Pixar, to a middle school teacher in Missouri. The teacher had asked Docter if he had any advice he would pass on to middle school students.
Here’s what he said (in case you could not read the handwriting):
May 5, 2009
Dear Mr. Kelsey,
What would I tell a class of Middle School students?
When I was in Middle School, I liked to make cartoons. I was not the best artist in my class — Chad Prins was way better — but I liked making comic strips and animated films, so after High school it was no surprise that I got into The California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), a school that taught animation.
CalArts only accepts 25 students a year, and it attracts some of the best artists in the country. Suddenly I went from being one of the top artists in my class to being one of the absolute worst. Looking at the talented folks around me, I knew there was no way I would make it as a professional. Everyone else drew way better than I did. And I assumed the people who were the best artists would become the top animators.
But I loved animation, so I kept doing it. I made tons of films. I did animation for my friends’ films. I animated scenes just for the fun of it. Most of my stuff was bad, but I had fun, and I tried everything I knew to get better.
Meanwhile, many of the people who could draw really well kind of rested around and didn’t do a whole lot. It made me angry, because if I had their talent, man, the things I would do with it!
Years later, a lot of those guys who probably still draw really well don’t actually work in animation at all. I don’t know what happened to them. As for me, I got hired at Pixar Animation Studios, where I got to work on Toy Story 1 and 2, direct Monsters, Inc., and Up.
So, Middle School Student, whatever you like doing, do it! And keep doing it. Work hard! In the end, passion and hard work beats out natural talent. (And anyway, if you love what you do, it’s not really “work” anyway.)
There is always someone better. There is always someone with more talent. There is always someone with a better idea. We don’t get to control that variable. But the variable that we can control is how we work. No one chooses how you do your job for you. The level of energy and passion you bring to your job, the decisions you make, when to stop and when to keep pushing – it’s all on you. No. One. Else. There’s a good chance you might get “out talented,” but you should never get out worked. Ever.
Added on top of that is most of us work in some type of ministry. We get the privilege of sharing grace, hope, & love. We get to come to work every day and create to help people bump into God. Every week someone is walking in the door hopeless and, when we refuse to settle, they might have the chance to experience hope, love, acceptance; they might experience God – possibly for the first time ever.
So as you choose how you work, remember what lays in the balance. Remember, even if you work bi-vocationally or as a volunteer, how MUCH someone else would pay to be in your position. How much they WISH they could do ministry and, for whatever reason, they’re not afforded that option right now. It’s a gift, don’t take it for granted.
You get to do this. You get to do it today. Don’t give up. Show up and go hard. Work till the work is done. It’s right and achieves the dreams God has given you!