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What If You Never Achieve Success in Your Lifetime?

  • Name
    Phil Cooke

If you happen to be creative or have discovered the great purpose for your life, you probably spend time wondering if your work will ever get noticed. It’s such a big issue that I wrote my book One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do to help people find their purpose and then make it known to the world. Now, a documentary film on the life of photographer Vivian Maier is an incredible story of a remarkably gifted woman who never achieved artistic success in her lifetime, but never gave up her work. As her website states:

“Having picked up photography just two years earlier, she would comb the streets of the Big Apple refining her artistic craft. By 1956 Vivian left the East Coast for Chicago, where she’d spend most of the rest of her life working as a caregiver. In her leisure Vivian would shoot photos that she zealously hid from the eyes of others. Taking snapshots into the late 1990s, Maier would leave behind a body of work comprising over 100,000 negatives.” But she made her living as a nanny—and took photographs on the side. Not only was she never published in her lifetime, but she did her best to keep her work secret from the families she worked for. Many years later, those 100,000 negatives went public when they were discovered at a local thrift store/auction house in 2007 in Chicago. A website dedicated to Vivian tells her story, and a documentary film does a brilliant job of showcasing her talent. Watching the documentary made me realize the remarkable level of talent from people who will never get on the radar, and who will never be discovered. Living in Los Angeles I regularly see brilliant actors, writers and directors who have spent decades perfecting their craft, but will never get a break, never achieve financial independence and never be known by the public. In today’s distracted, media driven culture, visibility is just as important as ability. No matter how great your talent, if your goal is to make an impact, then if nobody knows about it, you’ve failed. Develop your gift first—no question. But also focus on getting that gift out there. The world needs it …