When I told my dad that I wanted to write and draw children’s books while giving half of my proceeds to charity, he asked me...
“Are you sure that’s a good idea? I’ve never seen someone give 50%.”
“Are you short selling your work?”
“Is this a sustainable way of production?”
“Is it fair to your labor?”
All were fair questions. I know he was just trying to look out for his son. Being a businessman himself, I know he was asking this an angle of protection. It was a preemptive attempt to save me from the same harsh lessons he had to learn alone.
I remember not being able to answer when he asked me years ago. I still don’t know how to.
When I would sit down to write and draw The Mustache that Cured World Hunger, I could hear him asking these questions over and over again. Not that his words were filled with doubt about my ability, but more so uncertainty of my process.
What I focused on to block out those thoughts out was the feeling I had when I walked by a woman and her kids on the street, not being able to help them. I thought about the countless stories of hard times and unfortunate occurrences that caused someone to go hungry, or without water. I didn’t want to overlook the people who very obviously need help.
That feeling consumed me. I felt compelled every day to at least try, regardless if I knew if it was right or wrong or how badly I felt about my drawings or writing. I had to try to help people not suffer as much as possible, be it 1 person or 100.
So I went with it and released the book.
Last December, just about two years after the Mustache released, my dad told me something that I’ll never forget.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of you,” he said. “Not only did you raise a substantial amount of money, but you did it in a way that you believe in. You stood up for what you thought was right despite the doubts. You really did it and look at the good it has caused. You proved me wrong.”
I think there’s something in everyone, for the most part regardless of the quality of your relationship, that strives to make their parents proud. I have high regard for my parents and their opinions. To hear my dad say this was an award for the countless hours of doubt, for all the times I thought this was a stupid idea. It was validation for all of the times I didn’t think my work was really that good. It made up for the times I had $50 in my bank account for the week after just donating to the food bank. It made up for those negative thoughts and ideas begging “should I have done it a different way?”
I don’t want this to seem like a gigantic pat on the back, because it’s far from it. It’s a moment of my life that I think really epitomizes what I do, and why I do it. It gifted me the understanding that, if you find a way to transcend the thoughts of others, and even yourself, you can create the life you want. Even if those thoughts come from someone you deeply respect and admire.
I think we all have something good in us that is begging to come out. A way that we can all benefit and better the world around us, be it our immediate neighborhood or humanity at large. We all have something we want to do, or write, or make that can bring happiness to others. Be it being a better lover, or writing a screenplay, or leaving the job that constantly brings you down, we all have that feeling.
Regardless of what you hear from other people, or what you tell yourself, stay true to how you want to do things and the crazy projects you want to bring to life. Narrow your vision, put your head down, and be brave enough to release it to the world. The thoughts of questioning and doubt might not stop, but there will be uplifting moments that you can fall back on, like the one I had with my dad, and that will keep you going.
If you’ve made it this far, I want to say thank you again for helping so much good happen in Portland. We’ve raised right around $1,750 for the Oregon Food Bank with The Mustache that Cured World Hunger and $750 for Albertina Kerr with The Beard that Boosted Self Confidence. Those are numbers to be stoked on and change that we can all stand behind. No matter how you cut it, that would have never happened without you. Let’s keep making our city and our world better together.
I can’t wait to share The Goatee that Lived Sustainably with you on March 11th. I think we will do a lot of solid things for SCRAP PDX.
No matter where you are in life, the amount of support you do or don’t have, or any other variable, pursue that vision.
The work is worth it.