Chris’s work is something I go in and out of following (Honestly, I really should read more of his stuff more frequently) but this quote has stuck with me over the years. It’s become a mantra of mine, of sorts.
It takes a lot of hard, unseen work to become successful. Anything that looks easy is far from it. To them, hard work has become instinct.
It’s quite a special thing, when we can watch from the crowd on an athlete, artist, musician, dancer, coach or entrepreneur, and think “I could do that”.
This feeling is part inspiration, part admiration, and one hundred percent naive. The dedication and commitment to a craft—really, to a dream—can only truly be appreciated by stepping into the arena yourself.
It takes time, intention, and perseverance to become great at something. Most folks don’t see it through. But you can. I can. We can break out of the bad habits and things we dislike about ourselves and build up good habits and values we want to live by. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. All we have to do is commit to today. Forget about yesterday and tomorrow. Focus on the task in front of you. Prioritize and give time to what you value. Say no to everything else.
“Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s souls.”
There will always be ups and downs on every creative journey. Moments of doubt. A day where all you want to do is quit. And on that day when you are teetering on the edge of giving up your dream, you have a choice—keep going or give in. There will be many days like this. This is an inflection point. This is what separates those that succeed and those who give up and go on to and doing something else.
Success isn’t assured. Even if you do everything right, there’s still the chance of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But that doesn’t mean you are destined to fail either. Perhaps the right place at the right time is in your future if you push through the difficulty and have the courage to continue forward. No one said pursuing a creative life would be easy. But if you love what you do, and you really want it, then you need to find the encouragement to keep pursuing.
Have you ever wondered why a quote’s attribution (quoter) is after the quoted sentence? Sure, it looks nice and organized that way. Or maybe we think it looks better that way because it’s always been that way and we are used to it so switching it up would seem off. Sometime’s you’ll see the opposite it books, where the author mentions the speaker and their titles before going into what they said. I think this minute detail — before or after a quote — hits upon the same idea:
When you read a quote before knowing who wrote or said it, your mind is more open to its ideas. Imagine hearing a great turn of phrase but only afterward learn that it was said by Hitler or from a person you distrust. And what about when the tables are turned? What does your mind immediately do but scoff and ignore or dismiss the quote out of principle?
Can you praise the quote but not the attributor? Can you separate the art from the flawed artist? Van Gogh is known for just as much as — if not more than — cutting off his own ear than he is for Starry Night. Obviously, I’m not defending Hitler, nor am I suggesting we cut off our ears in the name of creativity.
I’m suggesting that we all have flaws and lean towards certain perspectives over others (based on our experiences and upbringing). The key is not to judge others so harshly for their views and instead self-assess and work on ourselves instead.
We may not like what someone says or does, but all we can do is work on ourselves and let our actions be an example of wisdom, character, and integrity. And apologize when we make mistakes. Butting heads with our ego might get us success, but it won’t make us friends.
“Most people spend more time and energy going around problems than in trying to solve them.”
The biggest hurdle to any habit or skill you are learning is an overloaded system. It’s often that we fail because we are trying too hard and too much at once, not because we aren’t trying enough.
Not trying enough is a pitfall that can keep you from starting.
If you ever find yourself never quite being able to get started or find yourself consuming a ton of books, courses, and videos but never putting them in practice, then you have a problem starting. Maybe it’s fear of failure or repeating past mistakes or not living up to your own exceptions of yourself. Whatever the case, put all your strength into taking a step forward, however small. Starting is a physics problem. Things at rest tend to stay at rest. What we need is something that pushes us forward, even just a tiny bit, that gets the ball rolling. Start and build momentum.
It’s often that we fail because we are trying too hard and too much at once, not because we aren’t trying enough.
But if you’re trying but making no headway at all, then you’re likely trying too hard or trying too many things at once. Getting results requires focused energy. You can’t reliably half-*ss success (unreliable success is called luck). We need a strategy that gets us to the end goal 90% of the time and on the right track (or at least somewhere interesting) the other 10%. That starts with limiting your focus.
I can’t tell you how many times I unintentionally derailed myself because I attempted too many things at once. There are only so many things we can do at once (…I’m mostly in permanent denial about this). Even if I had all the energy and money in the world, I’d still run out of time at the end of the day. Focus and priority are our best friends here.
The thing we need to remember is success and opportunity stacks. Neither is assured, but both success and opportunity tend to build upon one another. One success leads to more opportunity leads to more (potential) success etc.
So where do you want to succeed?
What’s a problem you are struggling with that would wipe out most of your other problems if you were to solve it?
Most people default to mimicking what a successful person does, and that moves the needle, but it doesn’t get us to originality.
Original ideas come from following our curiosity and playfulness.
Your creative advantage is that you haven’t succeeded at the level you want to succeed at yet. When you are in the spotlight (however modicum or huge your success is), you are beholden to your success. Expectations seem high. Self-expectations are usually through the ceiling. Sure, you’ve got the money and clout, but you are internally and externally capping yourself. Because you succeed in a particular way, you want to keep following that success. Known success is chosen over unknown originality and potential failure.
By not being successful yet, you have the creative freedom to experiment and find your own way of doing things. You might not have the financial freedom to do whatever you want, but you have more room to fail with less risk. (The higher you climb, the longer the fall if you fail.)
“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”
Alexander Graham Bell
There are times in life, where everything feels in doubt. Plateaus are inevitable. Ruts are par for the course. But when life punches us, there’s usually multiple blows. What do you do when you feel stuck in all areas of your life? What do we do when your health sucks AND your work sucks AND your relationships could use some work AND on and on it goes.
Take a deep breath. Maybe take three. Then, look at this:
Marcus Aurelius once wrote, “When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive — to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
In Marcus Aurelius day, the universe and its shining glory used to be a daily reminder of how small our problems really are in the grand scheme of things. Nowadays, unless you are in a rural area, only a few of the brightest stars peak out of the night sky to challenge us. But one look at this photo or photos like it can center and ground you to what matters.
The worst part about feeling stuck is how limiting our minds become. Instead of focusing on doing the things we need to do, we spiral in self-pity and waste time feeling bad, overwhelmed and despaired.
“Begin — to begin is half the work, let half still remain; again begin this, and thou wilt have finished.”
The quickest solution I’ve found is to focus all your efforts on one thing and check that off. Each time you check off something that’s been bothering you (whether its having coffee with a friend you’ve been meaning to call, eating health today, etc), the mental rain cloud clears ever so slightly. Our problems / obstacles are bad enough on their own, we don’t need to berate ourselves internally too with negativity, hate and harsh criticism on top of it all.
Focus on completing what’s in front of you. Some might pick the easiest thing to complete first, others might go for the most pressing issue. I usually sit down with myself and see which problem I’m facing is effect the other problems.
What’s the one thing I can work on fixing that will alleviate or perhaps even get rid of all the other problems I’m facing?
It doesn’t really matter what you choose to start with, as long as you start with something. I find it’s often the case that my problems turn into monsters, simply by me ignoring them or not actually taking the time to access them. Here’s a weird analogy: It’s like having a sore or cut in your mouth — it feels massive when you run your tongue over it, but when you open wide and look at it threw a mirror, it’s just a tiny little thing. Things in the rear view appear closer than they are. Problems feel bigger until you get a good look at them.
The last thing to remember is to keep going. Through all the ups and downs we will face in life, as long as we keep going and persevering, things will inevitably unblock themselves. It’s good to know that there are both ups and downs, not just downs. Again, the mind can play tricks on us, and we can skew our life only in the down moments and forget the good.
Remember: you are alive. You can think, you can enjoy and you can love. Perhaps tomorrow we won’t be (you never know). All the more important reason to live and be alive today.
“Success is about dedication. You may not be where you want to be or do what you want to do when you’re on the journey. But you’ve got to be willing to have vision and foresight that leads you to an incredible end.”
A life of creativity is not without its ups and downs: lack of time or finances, responsibilities, other dreams and desires distracting us from our work, fear, doubts, hangry-ness, mental blocks, health… you name it!
As we work, we go through cycles of excitement and enthusiasm opposed to disinterest and obstructions conspiring to stop you. Plus, haters. Copycats. And the silence of obscurity.
But despite all of the things that can stand in the way, we have a choice — either keep going, or stop.
Dedication to your craft — especially weekly or even daily dedication — creates progress and momentum that must people only dream about. While others are thinking about what they want and wish they would do, you are out in the world doing it every day.
Sticking to your creative work is the most important thing you can do to ‘succeed’ in your own way.
Success isn’t always about greatness. It’s about consistency. Consistent hard work leads to success. Greatness will come.
Success and giving up start on very similar paths.
Step 1: Awareness.
You discover where you are on your path. When you know where you are, sometimes you find yourself on track, other times you realize you are further than you think. You can, unfortunately, discover you’ve been going the wrong direction.
Step 2: Acceptance.
This is where the paths seem to be going in the same direction, but are actually starting to diverge. This is where a deciding factor determines your course. Now that you are aware of and accept where you are, what are you going to do about it?
Lastly, step 3: Deciding.
The road towards giving up is accepting where you are and decide to do nothing. In the act of doing nothing, acceptance becomes defeat. We cope. We blame. We write off our dreams. We avoid. We do everything but the thing we need to do: something.
The road to success is accepting where you are and decide to do something about it. Sometimes that means going back to the drawing board or folding the cards this round. Sometimes that means you pushing on, living each day better than the last. But the key here is you keep going. Despite the pain, frustration, anxiety, fear and doubt. You keep going, because doing anything else would mean defeat.
When all seems lost, there’s always a road back to success. Even in defeat, there’s a chance to do something about it.
To piggyback on that idea, I think my biggest pain-points in life have been when I don’t follow my own principles.
Anytime I️ don’t make time for creativity and learning I️ start feeling anxious and crazy. Anytime I️ say yes to mediocre and unimportant things or when I️ say yes too much at once my life implodes. When I️ give into fear instead of being BOLD, when I️ fall into a mental rut and go numb because of a setback or failure, or when I️ don’t put in the time for friends and family — I️ suffer. I live in a suffering mindset instead of a successful mindset. My mind paints the world like nothing ever works out and I should just go lay down and take a nap.
We all define success in our own ways. The key is to make sure your life aligns with your definition.
The most defining moments of your life will what you do with failure and what bold actions you decide to take.
I would have never learned just how vital our body is unless I hadn’t broken it by spraining my neck a few years ago.
I would never be doing the work I’m doing if I hadn’t sought out opportunity and challenged myself with action.
Don’t go out and fail on purpose, or risk your life frivolously.
Live by what your heart is telling you. When setbacks happen — and they will — be the better person you’ve always wanted to be.
What are my most defining moments in life so far?
What do I normally do when I fail? How can I fail better? How can I master the art of failing forward?
What do I fear? What is making me uncomfortable? What bold actions do I need to take?
“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.” — Albert Einstein
“Some people dream of success, while other people get up every morning and make it happen.” — Wayne Huizenga
“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.” — Johnny Cash
“Failure comes only when we forget our ideals and objectives and principles.” — Jawaharlal Nehru
Well, then you better d🙉mn well be creating your own business and doing the work.
Love or hate his in-your-face personality, GaryVee’s created a $100+ million dollar agency. And that speaks volume. In fact, he’s said so himself — his highly successful personal brand is his side-business.
Without the practice behind the preaching, it’s all icing and no cake. (The first bite is amazing but immediately downhill from there)
I can self-help you all day, but if my strategies don’t work for my own life, how could I possibly think they would work for yours? Arrogance is not confidence.
How can we teach business without having a successful business of our own? (Or even a failed business of lessons learned?)
How can we teach anything without the experience to back it up?
If you want to be a thought leader like I do, you can’t just say it — you’ve got to live it.
Q: How are you living it?
Thought leadership requires practicing what you preach.
(And I think you have to have a balance of both practicing and preaching)
I can see three approaches to becoming a thought leader (two good, one bad):
Preach what your learning
Preach what you’ve learned
Preach what you’ve heard.
The first two require incredible amounts of energy and thought, but are well worth it by the amount of influence, connections, and success you will create.
The last might get you a following, but it won’t be real. Your following will only consist of other shhmoe’s trying to do the same thing. (#followforfollow)
I don’t label myself as a Renaissance Man, instead, I see my mission as becoming a Renaissance Man — there’s a big difference.
One says I’m there. I’ve made it. I’ve got nothing left to learn. (closed-minded and destined for mediocrity.)
The other says this is a lifelong journey. It’s not about becoming the dream, it’s livingtowards the dream.
Remember: If you want to be a thought leader, go out there and live.