Hi from a slightly disabled, entirely positive creative entrepreneur. Today is my 50th birthday, so I thought I share a story with you.
I barely graduated high school (and I mean barely). I believe my graduating G.P.A. was around 2.08 – that is not 2.8 – which would be a stable “C.” It is 2.08, as in one slightly lower grade in any of my classes throughout high school, and I would have earned a second senior year. In fact, my high school counselor called a meeting with my parents in my senior year in order to urge them to not waste their money and my time to send me to college. “Hammad is destined for vocational school,” my high school counselor said repeatedly. While there is nothing wrong with the vocational school route, I did not feel it was a path I was meant to limp down.
As I enter my fifth decade of life, 32 years removed from barely graduating high school, and 49 years and five months after a head injury gifted my moderate disability, and it still blows me away that I was eventually able to attend my dream school, UCLA for graduate school. Of course, it took two junior colleges and three universities in three states over a six-year period to get my bachelor’s degree, but I never gave up.
I believe there’s a fine line between stupidity and genius, and the only genius I have ever had is that I am too stupid to give up on my childhood dreams. That brings us to the moment I wanted to share.
Last Thursday, January 25th, I took my wife and our twin daughters to the UCLA vs. California basketball game on the UCLA campus, when a friendly usher gave us a game program for free. That had never happened before. However, this day was different. This day was meant to teach me a lesson.
I started flipping through with moderate interest until I noticed a full-page ad (below) featuring my daughters and me. We did a photo shoot for UCLA months ago, but I had no idea when it would publish. So there I was, wondering how I got here. Several thoughts stampeded through my mind, like, how did I ever get through high school, much less graduate college? Why did I never opt to slide under life’s hurdles, even when knowing if I tried to jump over them, I would fall flat on my face? And, why did I never understand the meaning of “no,” when people rejected the projects I wanted to make? I remembered Peter Guber, who taught me at the UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television Graduate Producers Program, telling us that when you hear a “no,” all you have to do is turn the word around to “on,” and move on to finding another home for your film. I remember my mom not letting me give up on learning how to ride a bike, even though I could only balance one side of my body, and I remember the immense joy I felt the day I taught my daughters to ride a bike. Life is a wild ride, but it’s a ride I’m endlessly grateful to be on.
So, if you’re thinking of refraining from chasing your dream, don’t. If you are thinking of “getting realistic” and walking down a safe path for the rest of your life, don’t. Life is to be lived, not compromised. Enjoy it. Live it. Inhale it and expect it to become everything you dreamed it could be, and it will. From one dreamer to another, I hope your most outlandish dreams become your most amazing realities. In the meantime, here are a few podcasts to keep your spirits up. Thank you for lending me your ears and eyes.