Never Give Up

Earlier this year my 11-year old son, Jack, became obsessed with the Netflix show Stranger Things. Clearly he was not alone in this as our trip yesterday to the Alamo City Comic Con proved.

Gaten Matazarro answers a question from the audience at the 2016 Alamo City Comic Con

The stars of the series are Winona Ryder and a slate of very talented child actors. It’s the latter that spurred my son’s obsession over the show as well as our attendance of the convention. Three of the child actors (and Jack’s two favorites – Gaten Matazarro and Millie Bobby Brown) would be appearing at the San Antonio event.

The first item we had circled on the schedule was a Q&A with Gaten and another of the show’s stars, Caleb McLaughlin. Most of the questions were what one would expect from kids asking questions of other kids. “Do you play Pokémon Go? Who’s the funniest? What are you dressing up as for Halloween?” That kind of thing.

There was one predictable question though (“What advice would you give to someone who also wants to be a child actor?”) that elicited an answer extending beyond acting. In fact, it’s advice that most adults could learn from as well.

Gaten’s response showed a maturity beyond his age of 14:  “Don’t give up. Keep going. I didn’t get my first part until I was 9 years old. And I know that sounds ridiculous – ‘I didn’t get my first job until I was 9’, but the truth is I had been auditioning since I was 7 without getting anything.. In fact, right before that audition, we had a discussion about maybe it was time to quit. But we didn’t. And I got that first part and it opened the door and it’s been non-stop ever since. So even when it seems like you can’t go any further, don’t give up. I’m glad I didn’t.”

Those are wise words and I hope all of the parents who were in that theatre were paying attention (most I saw were staring at their phones). I’ve heard Brian Tracy give this same advice to an auditorium full of “grown-ups”. I’m paraphrasing here as I don’t remember the wording exactly, but Brian compared it to a football team who marches the ball methodically all the way down to their opponent’s 1-yard line and then packs it up and heads to the locker room. Not realizing that if they had just run one more play they would have scored and won the game.

Why? Why would someone do that? Because that last yard is sometimes the hardest. You’re exhausted by the effort it took to get that far and the last bit of ground you have to cover looks like it’s up a steep hill that’s shrouded in fog. But you have to push ahead. You have to press on. Run one more play. Go on one more audition. Make one more sales call. Book one more appointment. In the end, it’s the only way to get the payoff from all of the work and effort it took to get you to that point.

Of course, life isn’t as clear and concise as a football field with down and distance easily measured from any spot on the field. So what do you do if you don’t quit, but you still don’t score? Stake the same advice. Don’t quit. Persevere. Try again. Maybe you weren’t quite as far along as you thought. Maybe you still have things to learn and more skills to acquire before you reach your ultimate goal. And even in the worst-case scenarios and you never do make it, you will know you gave it everything you had and the full measure of your devotion.

Never give up.

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Bonus pic:

Jack Devers & Gaten Matarazzo at 2016 Alamo City Comic Con

Jack Devers & Gaten Matarazzo at 2016 Alamo City Comic Con

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