The Rider,  Chloe Zhao

The Rider, Chloe Zhao

Let’s talk about dreams. Those things you’re burning to make, but aren’t sure will work. If they’ll succeed. If they’ll be good enough. If they’ll find an audience and bring you the accolades you picture when you close your eyes.

How do you get over those worries and make anything happen? Start the race.

Not the grownup, winner-take-all way you compete now. Go back to when you were a kid. When someone lined you up and said three words — “ready, set, go!” — and you took off, loving the exercise most, not caring about a distant goal or when it would end. Because nobody had added, “win.” That came later. And is likely what’s stopping you now.

Last night, two things clarified that again for me. First, a song. Put it on repeat, this can wait.

Light On,  Maggie Rogers

Light On, Maggie Rogers


Heidi Moore linked to Maggie Rogers’s new track and took me down a rabbithole. I went back and watched her present to her NYU masterclass (and Pharrell). I put her radio station on Sonos as I surfed through interviews she’d done. And what it all reiterated was that you have to get ready to run the race while trying not to think about the finish line.

How does Rogers do it?

She’s ready. On her bio page, she poetically states her dream: “I found my space in the place between knowing who I was and finding out who I am.”

She’s set, clearly knowing who she is: “a songwriter, producer, and performer from Brooklyn.”

And then she’s gone, making the music herself and putting it out with a deep “belief that if you make what you want to make, maybe somebody will find it, even if it takes four years.”

Portrait of the American West , Olivia Bee

Portrait of the American West, Olivia Bee

The second thing that happened — right around the time I was watching Olivia Bee’s video for Light On — was that Chloe Zhao’s second movie, The Rider, upset the other, favored films to win Best Feature at the Gotham Awards. You can watch it tonight.

The movie is a modern western about a saddle bronc rider, Brady Jandreau, who has suffered a traumatic head injury and is told never to compete again. But he can’t stop; it’s all he knows, his only dream.

“Sometimes dreams aren’t meant to be,” his father tells him, thinking the end result is the only thing that matters. He’s wrong. As Brady knows, ultimately the pursuit of the dream is everything. “I believe God gives each of us a purpose, “ he says. “For a horse, it’s to tear across the prairie. For a cowboy, it’s to ride.” To ride. That is the purpose. Not to win. Maybe not even to finish.

Zhao, a young filmmaker who is originally from Northern China, gets this. She moved across the world to make independent movies with no known actors in the most remote places in America. That plan, for sure, doesn’t have a clear finish line. But it does seem to have the right approach: to find the joy in running, not the destination.

Ready. Set. Go.

Nick ChildsComment