You can be anything you want to be when you grow up!
I get it. Truly, I do. However, I’m certain that I missed a follow-up statement to this at some point along the way. I’d imagine that it went down something like this:
Dad would say, “You can be anything you want when you grow up…”
I would immediately begin daydreaming and tune everything else out. I’d picture myself as a six pack sporting, independently wealthy astronaut that moonlights as a fashion model on the weekends that I don’t have a rock show with my wildly successful band. I’m totally in! What a fun life to lead. Eventually, I’d tune back into my real-life surroundings and carry on the conversation never realizing that I missed key ingredients I’d need in order to my making my dreams come true.
This resulted in a lot of frustration as an adult. As a Millennial, I naturally buy into the American social media dream, and spend a lot of time comparing myself to every overnight success story that comes along. The result? I go through life frustrated at myself, feeling cheated, and just generally confused. I mean, Justin Bieber blew up because of one YouTube video! That 12 year ventriloquist on that other show is probably a millionaire by now! It’s rough comparing yourself to the hits on social media. Real life just doesn’t compare and I’ve struggled with figuring out why.
Fortunately, my struggles have proven beneficial and I’ve begun to put the pieces together and I’ve realized that there are some vital lessons I missed along the way. When I study successful creatives and entrepreneurs, some patterns emerge and I begin to recognize that the statement, “I can what whatever I want to be,” is only true IF. What has been missing up to this point? There are four important “IF’s”that must be practiced in order to achieve the goals you have set.
1. IF You Work Hard
There are no shortcuts. No matter what the talking heads, rambling keyboards, and social media personalities tell you, there are no shortcuts. Sure, you might move from “here” to “there” in 18 short months, but I guarantee you that if you do, it will be 18 months filled with hard work. There’s no getting around it. It’s not always going to be an easy road. As a writer, a manuscript, story, or chapter might flow out of you like molten butter down the crispy crust of a fresh sourdough dinner roll one day. The next, it might feel like pulling teeth with rusty tweezers. Regardless of the ease of your endeavors, you must commit to working hard. If you aren’t willing to grind out the hard work, you will miss out. This means working when you don’t feel like it, when it’s inconvenient, and when you have a million and one “legit” excuses. Working hard isn’t negotiable.
2. IF You Work Consistently
Creatives tend to be slaves to creativity and, as such, we tend to work like fiends when inspired only to disappear for weeks or months until the next batch of inspiration finds us. While this isn’t the most horrible thing we could do, it’s up there. Anything that is worth doing will take time and will require the commitment to everyday practice. Jeff Goins makes this point eloquently in his blog post, “Why You Should Practice Every Day for Two Years” If we want to be successful at anything we have to put in the consistent work UNTIL…Until it happens. Not until I THINK it should happen…
3. IF You Be Patient
Why do we need to be patient? (Hint: See #2 above.) In this world of “overnight successes” we need to recognize that things take time. Is your market or genre of creative expression saturated? Probably. There are likely new people encroaching on the very territory you want to inhabit every single day. You want to know to be successful in spite of the crowds? Stick ’em out! Keep working your art, keep practicing your craft, keep your head down and one of these days you’ll look up and notice that people are seeking you out and anxious to have what you are offering. Until that day arrives, practice patience or as Gary Vaynerchuk puts it, “deploy patience.” Same concept, much more intentional tone. To deploy means to, “bring into effective action.” Deploying patience while persistently pursuing proficiency in the remaining three areas will make you effective, no matter your field.
4. IF You Help Others
From the time I was knee high to a June bug, my dad would always make the statement, “If you help enough other people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.” I never really understood it. However, as I’ve gone further in my creative career and begun to understand the importance of “tribe” and community, I see that it’s an invaluable piece of advice. I’ve heard it echoed time and again by one successful business owner and entrepreneur after another. Help people. Find a pain point, find something that those surrounding you are lacking and provide it to them. Always be looking to provide more than you ask for, better yet don’t ask for anything at first! Be generous with your time, your talent, and your experience. Do this consistently, cheerfully, and I suspect someday you’ll look back at the amazing things that have occurred in your life and you’ll be able to attribute it to this practice.
If you do these four things, success will follow you. I’m still on this creative and professional journey, but I know these things are absolutely truth. I’ve seen the evidence in the lives of others, and am beginning to experience it in my life. Check back in with me in a couple years and I’m confident I’ll be able to point back to countless episodes along my path that back up these points.
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What did I miss?
I’ll be the first to admit I’m nowhere near where I want to be creatively and professionally. What other lessons would you like to pass on? What are the skills or principles you’ve found invaluable in building your success?