3 Things I Learnt from my Steven Spielberg Autograph

Let me tell you a story.

When I was eight-years-old I saw Jurassic Park for the first time. I didn't see it in the cinemas, but at home on a timeworn VHS tape. I think it was Christmas. It was cold outside in London.

And soon as that tape started playing, and those storm-swept leaves came onto the screen, I was enraptured.

From the story to the heart-pounding thrills to the Dinosaur special effects -- the T-rex bursting out of the paddock is engrained in my memory -- I must have rewatched that tape THOUSANDS of times. No joke.

It was at that moment I knew I wanted to become a filmmaker.

Of course, at eight, I had no idea how. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be a director, producer, writer, or maybe even an actor. But I knew that I wanted to follow that instinct. No, I needed to.

But I was lost. I asked my mother what she thought. I was a child with no connections, no power, no skills. I was also toying with the idea of becoming a Palaeontologist, like Dr. Alan Grant in the movie. I wasn't sure about that either.

She told me something that changed my life. "Why don't you just write to him?"

It was that simple.

Although the details are fuzzy, I think my mother helped me to pen the exact words I was thinking of. That I loved the film. That it inspired me. That I wanted to do exactly what he was doing.

We sent the letter off with a 40p stamp and the scrawled address: To Mr Steven Speilberg, Amblin Entertainment, United States.

Months passed.

I watched Jurassic Park every week, got older, had innocent crushes, and did my school work. And then one day I got a mysterious letter in the post on April 15, 1995, three days after my ninth birthday. I carefully opened it, wide-eyed, thrumming with excitement. And this is what I saw.

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I was overjoyed! My idol had seen me! He knew I existed!

Now I know that these letters are probably auto-generated. And yeah, maybe the autograph is too. But this single event set me on a path that I am still on today.

Because of that autograph, I chose to be a writer. I stuck to being a writer. I became a writer.

Now I'm not talking about this to make the feat seem more impressive than it was. But it taught me 3 valuable lessons that are still with me today.

1. Your true passion is invisible and "playtime" to you.

For me, it was watching countless re-runs of Jurassic Park. As I watched the movie or drew the dinosaurs or acted it out in my bedroom, time seemed to evaporate. It wasn't boring to me. It was playtime. And I knew that I wanted to pursue a career that was "playtime" to me: writing.

So if you're finding it difficult to isolate your passion, think about the things you do every day, seamlessly, without realising it. Don't overcomplicate it.

What is the thing, that when you’re doing it, time seems to stand still?

Is it play to you? 

Does this thing bring untold joy to you in ways you can't articulate?

Sometimes it pays to listen to the invisible, whispering voices in your head. They're often smarter than you are.

2. A dream is nothing unless you take action

I could have just sat at home and continued to watch the film. However, my mother made it clear that nothing would happen unless I actually got up, wrote a letter, and pursued that dream.

Many of us have dreams, whether big or small. But MOST cave and falter when it comes to taking action to make it a reality. We hear incessant voices like: We'll fail. The odds are too great. We aren't good enough.

But it's all rubbish. Most are insecurities inherited from society, bad teachers, your colleagues, and maybe even your parents. You need to silence those insecurities. They hold no value.

A dream can only come true, not if you wish for it, but if you dare to chase it. And even a small step can change your life for the better.

So start small. Write that dream down. Call someone who might know. Find a website. Go to the library. Write a blog post. Actually, take that first step and open the door to possibility.

Once you're on your way, you'll realise it was not as difficult as you thought.

3. Idols should inspire you. But you need to be you.

I've reflected on the autograph countless times over the years. It was probably my first dream to BE Steven Spielberg. To channel his genius. To make the films that he made. But I was wrong. I realised that the world didn't need a (Eurasian) Steven Spielberg.

It just needed Kane.

So while I took Spielberg’s movies and experiences and vision with me, I chose to develop my own voice. My own identity. My own way of writing and telling stories. 

This autograph means a lot to me, but it isn't the world.

It's a simple reminder that sometimes you have got to take a risk, reach out beyond what you think is possible, and take action to achieve your dreams. 

Today, I've enjoyed a full-time career as a screenwriter, fiction writer, and now a blogger and podcaster. People have told me it was impossible, but I kept at it. Why? Because it makes me happy. Like watching Jurassic Park.

And in the end, isn't that what we really want in our lives - to be happy? 

So if you have an impossible dream, know that you're not alone. But don't sit back. Don't be idle.

Try. Take action. Write a letter. And just as Jeff Goldblum said in Jurassic Park, "Life, uh, finds a way."

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