“Success stories are nice, but everyone can’t be the next Oprah Winfrey, or Michael Jordan, or Steve Jobs, or blah blah blah.”
True, but those people can’t be like you either. And they also couldn’t be like all the unique people who came before them. And striving to be the next X, Y, or Z misses the point anyway.
The only game worth playing is the one where you get to create the adventure of defining what it means to be smart and successful on your own terms. And you don’t get to play that game if you spend your time listening to people who are hellbent on making you afraid of your ambitions.
Maybe you can’t be the next Tom Brady or Stephen Curry, but you don’t need to be. Great people only seem special because they figured out how to capitalize on their own unique combination of strengths and advantages. They focused on their own peculiar interests and eventually became masters of a distinct point of intersection. There’s no reason you can’t find your own way to do that. You may or may not get the same amount of money or fame, but you can become the Grandmaster of your own game.
All successful people are unique. So what. All failures are unique too.
Uniqueness is a good thing. And the worst way to celebrate such a good thing is by using other people’s uniqueness as an excuse for denying your own capacity for greatness.
“What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” -James 2:14,17
Think about that one thing you want to do for a living.
Now imagine running into someone who has all the power, connections, and resources to put you in the position you’ve always wanted to be in overnight. Imagine telling them about your passion and how much you long to make a career out of it. After listening to you pour your heart out with great conviction, they casually ask “Can you email me a link where I can see some of your work?”
How do you feel at this moment? Are you delighted by the opportunity to share your github profile or your YouTube channel? Are you nervous about what they’ll think of your blog? Or are you stumped because you have nothing to show?
The world is filled with people who dream of a day when they’ll be able to do a particular thing full-time, but there’s a common problem that plagues many of those who fall in this category: apart from what they say or put on their resume, their talent is a secret. They say they love to write, but you can’t find anything they’ve written anywhere. They say they love to act, but you can’t find footage of them anywhere. They say they love to speak or do comedy or review music or whatever, but there’s no way to sample their skills.
Why is this a problem? Well for starters, it places other people in the position of having to take your word for it when it comes to what you say they can do. And as nice as it would be if everyone did that, it’s a big risk for people especially in a market where your competitors can offer shareable examples of their work. When you can say to potential clients or supporters “Hey look, here’s some stuff I’ve already created,” it gives them a low cost opportunity to preview you before they pay you.
More importantly, when you have a portfolio to show, it demonstrates character. It shows that you are the kind of person who’s creative enough, ambitious enough, and persistent enough to find a way to do your work in less than ideal conditions. If you’re thinking about putting your reputation on the line by recommending someone for a job, would you rather refer the person who seems like the type that gets things done no matter what or the type of person who only works well when they’re getting paid?
It takes talent to do something for a living, but it also takes work ethic. And before people feel motivated to pay you to do something, they look for evidence that you’re willing to work and capable of working.
Your body of work speaks louder than your resume on any day of the week.
If you want to get paid for something, do it like you’re getting paid before someone writes you a check. If you want do something for a living, find a way to live what you do even if your circumstances make it difficult.
“But what if I do it poorly?”
If a job is what you’re looking for, nothing fits the description of “doing it poorly” better than not exercising the initiative and courage to do anything at all. Opportunity doesn’t respond to what you say, it reacts to what you show. If you want the pleasure and privilege of doing what makes you come alive, then start working on those things as if you’re actually alive.
It’s also human to carry yourself with a sense of passion, pride, and personal power.
It’s human to be vulnerable.
It’s also human to dig deep and find a way to survive when your back is against the wall.
It’s human to “keep it real” and “be transparent” about things like anger, sadness, frustration, heartbreak, and failure.
It’s also human to “keep it real” and “be transparent” when it comes to counting your blessings, keeping your head up, and affirming things that are worth fighting for.
Suppressing your negative thoughts isn’t the only way to be fake nor is airing out your grievances the only way to be genuine.
If the human spirit is essentially creative, then nothing is more artificial than a life lived without airing out a little gratitude for our ability to rise above the odds and make the impossible happen.
It takes honesty to be frank about your obstacles. It takes the same to be frank about your opportunities. Keep on keeping it real, but don’t let failure porn monopolize your concept of self-authenticity.
One of the most common causes of our failure to see good things is the insistence that goodness must always be obvious; that if something is truly real, then its existence should require little effort to recognize.
We’re not made apathetic by life itself. We’re made apathetic by our assumption that we would never have to endure creative challenges as a prerequisite for perceiving beauty.
If you’re growing weary in your looking for sights worth seeing, try to keep the following in mind: Things that are easy on the eyes aren’t always apparent to the eyes.
“There is nothing that is a greater expression of your personal power than your day job.”
Yesterday I introduced you to my new podcast with Isaac Morehouse. Although our episodes will be updated every week, today I’m sharing the second episode to celebrate the second day of our launch.
In the second episode of Office Hours, Isaac and I focus on taking an empowered approach to your work. After starting things off by settling an old friendly debate about Lord of the Rings, we delve into the following two questions:
First, how do you approach a situation at work where you are pushing for a change that others aren’t ready for yet?
And second, how do you pursue your dreams while succeeding at your day job?
These are common questions and concerns people express about their work, but both come with assumptions about work and life that give away your personal power.
In this episode:
– Clearing the air about Lord of the Rings
– How goals and rules lead to fulfillment
– How options can blind you from opportunities
– Going from “we should” to “I did”
– How do you build your dream when you are working on your day job.
Isaac Morehouse and I have launched our new podcast: “Office Hours.” This is a show where we offer philosophical insight and actionable advice on all things pertaining to personal/professional development. We’re like the geek squad for your creative challenges. You bring the problem. We’ll bring the nuts and bolts.
This week, on the first episode of Office Hours, Isaac and I tackle three questions about a daughter who feels stuck in college, a young entrepreneur who doesn’t know how to pitch his business, and a successful professional who feels bored with life.
Growing up as a child, I remember watching “pro-education” commercials with slogans like “Don’t be a fool, Stay in School” or “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Where I’m from, the term “drop-out” generates just about the same effect as the term “dope-dealer.”
Now that I’m an adult, I’m quite fortunate to be able to see through the ideological snobbery so often directed at unschooling, homeschooling, private schooling, and alternatives to college.
If you’re cynical about your life, what’s the one thing you wished you had more of? If your answer isn’t “education,” we are all ears. But, that begs the question: If “more education” is the answer, more education about what?
“If you’re cynical about your life, more education is definitely the answer. More education about what? Here’s the place to start: more education about the fact that education is not the same thing as schooling. Until people internalize that lesson, they’ll never know how to take responsibility for their own personal development. And until a person takes ownership of that, no amount of educational resources and opportunities will really matter.”