“Fool’s Gold” and the empty hunt

Last night my girlfriend and I watched the film “Fool’s Gold” featuring Matthew McConaughey and Kate Hudson. It was directed by Andy Tennant.

The story focuses on Benjamin Finnegan, played by McConaughey, a deep-sea treasure hunter who has wasted his life chasing the lost treasure of a Spanish Galleon known as the Aurelia. Tess – played by Kate Hudson – has decided she’s had enough of his whimsical dreams and divorces him – despite her own fascination with the treasure of the Aurelia. She commits herself to divorcing Ben, returning to normal society, and finishing school as she finds a more stable, predictable partner.

Soon after their divorce Ben finds himself abandoned at sea until he is discovered and brought aboard a yatch by Nigel Honeycutt – played by Donald Sutherland. Honeycutt is on an aimless vacation with his daughter Gem – played by Alexis Dzienna. In an effort to finance her new life, Tess finds work on the same yatch as a waitress.

Soon after climbing aboard the yatch, Ben captivates Nigel, Gem, and even Tess with his theories about the lost treasure. Nigel – who has no shortage of coin – finds a purpose. Gem discovers an adventure that cuts through the superficial interests of her vapid social life. Tess succumbs once again to Ben’s charming yet fruitless pursuit. And Ben finds the support and resources he needs to make his pipe dream a reality.

If you wrote a story about these characters and their lives after finding the treasure, nobody would watch it, or care. It would have to end in tragedy. What would be the point? I think this is a fairly obvious realization, yet that conclusion elevates in importance when you realize what this story is really about.

It doesn’t matter what our dream is, or the length of time we have been pursuing it. It does not matter the amount of progress we have made, nor does it matter the struggles we have endured. There is a vision in your mind that you alone have been granted access to. That vision by itself is enough to fuel years or effort, decisions of regret, and a hollow belly of return on investment.

We can spin tales about our dreams that seduces others into believing in us. We can connect dots on a future timeline that land us directly in our own mirage. We find competitors who will fight to the death to find our treasure before we do. But most importantly, we will happily and eagerly forfeit a safer and more secure position in society to remain on an expedition that seemingly ruins us.

It is ironic to me that Nigel Honeycutt enthusiastically sets sail for this lost treasure. He is already wealthy beyond imagination. In the eyes of a safe and secure society, he has already achieved the ultimate ranking in social hierarchy. In his own perspective, however, it is Ben who is rich, and he who is poor.

You are on a treasure hunt. It is filled with obstacles that will strike you into the dirt. Your learning may propel you forward but its execution will repeatedly go unrewarded. The morning will begin with aspiration and the evening will end in despair. But you will wake up, and you will do it again, and again, and again.

Why?

Because your treasure is out there. You are not the only one mad with desire to uncover it. Many will forfeit the journey long before they bring shovel to sand. Many others will find themselves lost along the way, failing to see they misunderstood the map’s instructions. And many, many others will stand idly by, watching treasure after treasure get discovered rather than unfolding the map that is in their own pocket.

It’s not the treasure that we’re after. It’s the hunt that we live for.

A Maze With No Exit

There’s a great video on youtube about this Sushi chef in New York. Customers pay an astounding price to eat at his restaurant. The seating is extremely limited and reservations are made months in advance. I believe the menu is tailored to the specific customers for the day, but I may be mistaken. It’s been a while since I watched it but the important part has stuck with me. The habits that sushi chef had shaped for himself – from arriving hours early, sharpening his knives, and prepping each dish – struck me deeply.

I watched another short documentary recently about a salt farmer in Mexico who is the only person left to keep his family’s tradition of salt making alive. He is poor, breaks his back daily, and has no intent on stopping.

I think about monks from time to time. Each day they rise early and pray. They spend time performing labor-some tasks. They thank God before each meal. Then they go back to work. Each day to them is similar in action, but unique in joy.

Advancements in technology have made information, entertainment, and communication available in a flash. Our minds are jumping every 5 seconds and have been conditioned to demand stimulation at a moment’s notice. Yet we wonder why rates of depression and anxiety continue to climb.

If you’ve ever played a video game, you’re likely familiar with the concept of playing as a single character who continues to improve his skills in order to attain his overarching objective. You retrieve plants and use them to craft medicine and food. You perform tasks and are rewarded with money. You purchase stronger weapons and your enemies are no longer as threatening. It’s fun because it simulates what real life is supposed to be – without the real work.

We can develop habits that place us in the pathway of success. If you want to improve your writing, you can study books. Or you can write. Or you can provide feedback for other writers. If you want to film a special effect you are unfamiliar with, simply type it into youtube and you will find a tutorial that suits your needs.

Each hour of every day we receive the gift of time. We can choose to spend that time developing our own character to progress toward our personal goals, or we can waste that time on consuming the products of others.

There is a generous reward provided to those who routinely devote their time to habitual improvement. The reward is not always the gift of prosperity and acclaim. The reward is found in the joy that comes from living with purpose.

When I find that I am depressed, sad, or anxious, I find that the core of my beliefs has often shifted. I fall so far into consumerism that I have allowed the thoughts, opinions, and products of others shape my worldview. At the center of my flawed belief is the idea that their is no pathway to success, joy, or meaningful production.

I often think of a study that was once conducted with mice. The mice were placed in a maze that had no way to exit. For a time, the mice tried relentlessly. They took new routes and made different turns hoping to find an exit that they had previously passed over. Eventually they stopped searching. Instead they slumped over and rested, finally learning to be content with accepting that escape was an impossibility. But the researchers performing the study waited until this point in time to finally lift a barrier and allow for a clear pathway to freedom. Do you know what the mice did? They remained sleeping, and stopped looking for the exit altogether. They remained trapped, but unbeknownst to them their freedom would have only taken a few more attempts.

Throughout life it’s easy to look back on past efforts and shortcomings and conclude that the success we desire is simply not in the cards for us. “Seek and you shall find.” Though we might not see the path we have been looking for, it does us no good to accept misery as an inevitability. We must get up, we must gather our tools, and we must get to work.

When a Dream becomes a Job

I’m at the end of my 5th consecutive 12 hour shift. I have managed to run through multiple drafts of episode 5 and am a few beta-readers away from finally moving forward in the production process. I am hoping to post a new youtube video today, but I know deep down it will take longer. I plan to film multiple takes this the morning and edit in the afternoon. I also have another zoom Meetup meeting at 11 am. I have been doing these every Sunday for a group of strangers (now friends) who share an interest in filmmaking and I’ve honestly been getting more out of it than I ever thought possible.

Having a hand in so many different jars at once is exhausting. I feel extremely drained and rundown. Each instance when I lie down to rest I rise back up again as urgency to complete my objectives floods my mind. But I’ve had a realization that has brought me some comfort.

How easy is it for us to attend work daily and complete whatever we’re required to do? Our bosses ask us to put in overtime, drop something off when we should be home, or involve ourselves more with work events. And we do it – regardless of the joy it brings us. Why? Well that’s obvious to any working adult – money is a necessity. And if you tell me money doesn’t matter then I guarantee you don’t check the price on candy bars prior to purchase.

So why do we treat our passions like they are of less importance? Simply put, you could say that passion is a “want” where work is a “need.” It is not necessary for our dreams to become a reality in order to survive. And I agree with that.

But I do believe when you begin treating your passion like a job it becomes one – for better or for worse. By taking daily steps forward we begin to separate ourselves from the others in our rank. A path becomes clear over time that can take you to where you want to be. When you take pride in your pursuit you take pride in yourself. An undying belief that success will come can propel you through obstacles and navigate you through the winding roads.

Every day we have a decision to make – spend our free time relaxing, consuming, and eating, or devote that time to moving ahead. Each post you make to wordpress, each script you send to contests, and each agent you solicit is a step closer to your dream. Every rejection you receive teaches you that you can do something better. It is never about success or failure, but it is always about movement.

In this day, this hour, and this minute, there exist a decision that will be made regardless of your conscious effort to answer – Are you going to move closer to the place you want to be, or further from it?