Fans are awesome.
Not that I have any, of course. I'm just a software developer working at an awesome little startup. Let me explain.
This past weekend, I was at a local anime convention with a few friends of mine. As the largest of its kind in Canada, it shouldn't come as any surprise that it brings in a lot of people from a lot of places: fans, illustrators, musicians, cosplayers, etc. In fact, this year, because the convention has grown so much, they decided to put a cap on attendance, and as far as I know, they had no problem filling that cap.
It has been a few years since I last attended, due to some important life decisions (I love you honey!), so coming back after being away for three years, I wasn't sure what to expect. Sure, I wasn't expecting to be 'hip' to the latest shows, but what would things be like? Would I be too old? (short answer: No; Long answer: of course not)
What I wasn't expecting was that I would get as energized as I did. If I told you that, all weekend, I was surrounded by people in crazy costumes, talking about the most hilariously tragic ending they've ever seen, the "Stark spangled banner", or BLAH, you'd probably thing I was crazy (actually, you'd probably think I didn't have very good examples and I was stringing you along to get to the point. Congrats: I'd give you a cookie, but I eated it).
Really, what surprised me is how pumped up I got. Why is it that seeing a bunch of people in costume (even lazy ones; yes, I'm talking to you Pinky Pies of the world), a bunch of artwork, and a handful of plushies got me all psyched?
On one of the days, I attended a panel called "Why you don't have that dream job" run by a friend of mine, Steve Savage. He talked a lot about the myths of why you can't do your dream job, and what you can do to combat those myths. One of the important points that Steve emphasized was that there are all sorts of people that live out their passions, and those that don't still can work in professions that support their passions. While I was at a panel about "Writing what you love", one of the (published) authors brought up a point about agents: "All they care about is that the write is passionate about the story". At a Q&A called "Fan to pro to guest", a panel of four voice actors talked about how they got where they are now. Many of them were just ordinary people doing what they needed to do to make ends meet, slowly taking their free time to work at what they love until they got noticed. It was really encouraging.
It's easy to dismiss a lot of folks, assuming that they won't "make it big". People don't have to "make it big" to succeed. All that matters is that passion. Skill? Sure, it matters, but people can learn. At Anime North, there were a ton of crappy costumes, but did it matter? Heck no! Those people were really passionate about the shows that they watched, the characters that they learned of, and they were just showing off that passion. In time, if they choose, those folks can go off and improve, and maybe come back next year with more impressive costumes, or better art; anything really.
I know a lot of smart people, a lot of smart developers even; really skilled people. You know what, though? They may have skills, but I'm not convinced that many of them have even half the passion that I saw as the folks at Anime North.
Passion. It's all that really matters. Skills can be learned and taught, but you can't really manufacture passion. Be passionate. Be awesome.
For all that I talk, I can only hope to be as passionate as some of those young folks.