Friday, March 6, 2015

"Gradations Of Gutsiness"


is what came to mind after writing yesterday’s post.

I have often – by which I mean more than one time but not incessantly – thought about immigrants.  Not necessarily the immigrants of today but the immigrants like my grandparents who arrived here at the turn of the twentieth century, and in a similar context, myself, who immigrated to this great country on April the Twelfth, 1974, a date rivaling in importance December the 7th 1941, but with considerably less infamy.

Yes, I too was an immigrant.  Leading me to ponder during a recent conversation the fundamental difference between “The People Who Leave” and “The People
Who Don’t.”  Overhearing my pondering, a fellow immigrant, not of the inter-country variety but the “inter-state” – having moved from Minnesota to Seattle Washington, observed that when he went “home” he noticed a characteristical distinction between the migrational contingent and the ones who stayed put.

I cannot quote the man verbatim, as at the moment he spoke I had no plans to appropriate his observations.  Which is a shame, became he put it considerably better than I am about to.

People who stay – I now paraphrase his insightfulness – are more cautious and considerate; people who leave are more adventuresome, but they’re a pain in the ass.

I left.  And I acknowledge, not entirely comfortably, that the adjectives describing the “leavers” pretty much personally apply.  The second “descriptive” is not a giant surprise.  “Pains in the ass” are inveterate complainers, which generally defines why they are pains in the ass.

“I hate winter!”  “Canadian television is too limiting!”

I am sure I whined both of those things.  On numerous occasions.  “Complaining”, characteristically, is me.  And I believe that it ultimately helped me to move.  So never say complaining is all bad.  That would make you a complainer about complaining.  Meaning you are no different that I am.  So there.

As for the other descriptive, I never thought of myself as “adventuresome.”  But in retrospect, I must have been.  Or I’d be in Toronto and not here.  Not that, as Seinfeld said about gayness, there is anything wrong with that.  Though I’d be suffering through months of frigidity, disappointed career aspirations and, for a number of years, an embarrassing mayor.

Contracting my overall self-perception, I can recall specific examples of being brave.  I have mentioned the story of how, when the confirmation of my temporary work permit had not arrived at the Toronto Airport Immigration Checkpoint, I forced a burly American Immigration Officer – carrying an enormous firearm – to a nearby payphone, to speak to a California-based Immigration Official I had called up – there were no cell phones back then – so he could instruct the Toronto Officer to allow me to proceed legally onto the plane.

That was plenty brave.  “Racing-into-traffic-to-rescue-your-child” brave, only in this case, the child in question was my embryonic career. 

That, you will agree, was brave.  Won’t you?  Well, it was certainly brave for me.

I was also brave when I was rejected the invitation to move to New York to work on the inception of Saturday Night Live, jettisoning the only person who had given me work to that juncture and facing the daunting prospect of my navigating my career in Hollywood on my own.

I was brave on certain other occasions as well, like when I said “Yes” to an opportunity when I could more comfortably have said “No.”  (Note:  I am restricting my examples to the work-related arena; there were a handful of personal braveries as well.  Or, more accurately, a couple of fingers’ full.)

And then at some point, nearing the end of my career, I apparently – and inconveniently…

Ran entirely out of gutsiness. 

After three decades of comparative clear sailing, things started to get harder.  The offers dried up, my “spec” pilots and screenplays were unilaterally rejected, my agent, realizing he was extremely wealthy, retired…

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the ball game.

Unlike during earlier stages in my career when I ignored them, I took a look at the formidable obstacles that confronted me, and I ran out of… the stuff that I needed to empower myself to take them on.  I had, it appeared, reached the end point of my “Gutsy.”

And that’s when I realized – well not at that precise moment, but at some point down the line… that your “Gutsiness Quotient” – like your talent, like your timing, your good fortune, among countless other continua (the Latin plural of “continuum”) – can be identifiably designated along, in this case, “The Gutsiness Continuum”, pinpointing your position somewhere between curling up permanently into a ball and… I don’t know, telling Donald Trump you are cutting his previously agreed-upon classical piano solo out of your television show.  (And who knows, there may be even gutsier actions than that.  Involving a lion, a bullwhip and a chair, but that’s about it.)

Call it the “Gunfighter Mentality.”  I do.  Because, like the “quick draw” specialist who believes he’s the fastest, whatever personal characteristic, aptitude or ability you can think of, there is always somebody out there who’s “faster.”  (And also, following the “Gunfighter Analogy”, slower.  Which should make you feel better, but it usually doesn’t.)  

You can motivationally push yourself beyond your statistical limit.  You can intentionally restrict yourself and undershoot.  But there is indisputably only one
“Fastest Gunfighter” out there.  (And that position is temporary.)  The rest of us are reliably somewhere along that line. 

I can more of less live with the fact that I am not the most talented.

That I am not the gutsiest – or more specifically not as gutsy and I may have wanted to be…

That one, I am still working on.

1 comment:

Thomas Anderson said...

There are bold writers and old writers, but no bold old writers?