I was moved by some of the comments of Neil Gaiman, international best-selling author of books, comics, and movies, when he gave a commencement speech for the University of the Arts, class of 2012.
“When life gets tough, make good art. I’m serious.
Husband runs off with a politician–make good art. Leg crushed, then eaten by mutated boa constrictor–make good art. IRS on your tail–make good art. Cat exploded–make good art. Someone on the internet thinks what you’re doing is stupid or evil or been done before–make good art.
Probably, things will work out somehow. Eventually, time will take the sting away. Either way, do what only you can do best–make good art. Make it on the bad days; make it on the good days; make good art.”
Whether you’re an artist or not, you have a choice what to do with your pain. You can either use it as jet fuel for achievement–or you can wallow in it until it slowly evaporates. If you do choose to lean into that pain and make something valuable out of it, not only will your life take one more step towards exceptional, but your pain will also dissipate much faster (though pain often leaves a stain, no matter how long ago it faded).
Whatever your field, art, business, education, ministry…do what Gaiman says and use the failures, rejections, and tragedies of life as fuel to “do what only you can do best”.
(If you want to watch his entire 20 min speech, use this link: http://vimeo.com/42372767.)
When have you been able to use your pain as fuel for good? Share a story with the rest of us, if you can.