What is the Key to Success?
You have goals and projects that you want to be wildly successful. You’re a writer who wants to be published. You’re a programmer who wants your weekend project to turn into a company.
You’re hoping you meet the right people, learn the right things, have the right ideas. You’re waiting for the day that you are in the right place at the right time to grab and opportunity and run with it.
And you’re wondering what the key to success that you’re missing is.
The answer is simpler than you think.
Revisiting Your Work So Far
I’ve been connecting with people in the local print media lately. I wrote a featured article about blogging for Advantage Small Business Magazine, and they are about to run my second piece about giving away expertise to build a customer base. I’m the cover story this month for the Jacksonville Observer. An interview I did with Dirk at UpgradeReality.com will be posted in a week or two. I have several more appearances in the pipe that haven’t come to fruition yet.
Part of my process for writing and being interviewed is reviewing my past writing. I do that to get a sense of the story as I’ve told it so far, and to prime me to be able articulate whatever ideas I’ve published.
In light of that, I’ve noticed how atrocious my writing was, even a year ago.
The Bomb and the Bystander is one egregious example of embarrassing writing.
One moment calm, the next an enormous sound shook the building, making the plates and light fixtures shudder; a flash of bright light, all the electric lights popped and went dark…
One moment the restaurant buzzed with a lunch crowd talking over mariachi music piped in from overhead speakers, the next moment an enormous blast rocked the building, shuttering the plates and light fixtures. A flash of bright light, all the electric lights popped and went dark, the music fell silent with a crack, everyone in that restaurant jumped from their seats at once to run.
Aside from awkward phrasing and vague waffling, the whole essay wanders. Leadership. No, a Mexican restaurant, then to a college class, oh wait, a different college class, then there’s a seizure, and maybe an ice sculpture? What the fuck am I talking about? I had a point, but it drowned in the puke I set it swimming in.
The result is flaccid. No one has ever read that essay. I couldn’t understand why because I wasn’t a good enough writer to notice how vapid it was.
But the point isn’t that I was bad. The point is that I’ve improved.
How do I improve?
I post essays on Mondays and Fridays, even when I really don’t feel like it. I write articles for other publications. I also help other people with their writing, and I read authors who are better writers than I am. But the main factor that makes me a better writer than I was a year ago is that I write.
This site is my art gallery that exists.
Readers, interviewers, and acquaintances ask me almost every day for the sound bite that makes my story of freedom possible. They want the key to unlock their own potential, and they want it to fit neatly into their sweaty, outstretched palm.
Good news: the key to success really is easy to grasp. I’ll give it to you right now, and I hope your wildest dreams come true:
The key is doing it. You show up every day and you add one tiny, ill-placed paint stroke to your art gallery.
You don’t think about doing it, or dream about doing it, or read about doing it, or plan about doing it. You do it.
Thinking, dreaming, reading, and planning are all worthwhile, but do those after you do something.
The Power of Retrospect
You know you’re making progress when you are embarrassed of your art gallery that exists. When you’re good enough to notice how bad you used to be, you’ll realize the incredible power of just doing something—anything—daily.
Looking back at your progress will motivate you to continue moving forward because it provides a frame of reference for your improvement.
Taking small actions toward your goal every day will build the history, experience, and body of work that are fundamental to creating success. Those people you want to meet, and the brilliant ideas you want to capture will come to you as you hammer away, day after day. Having a schedule and sticking to it will also build the discipline you will definitely need to push past the difficult parts of that process.
Too many people are stuck thinking and dreaming about the life they want to build. Those people are waiting for the day they are good enough to bust onto the scene in a blaze of glory and take over the world. But that’s not how success works.
I admonish you to post your shitty writing, to sell your crappy product, to add that tiny paint stroke to your art gallery. That’s how success works.
That is the key to success. Whatever you do, show up and do it.
Get Off Your Cross And Fight
On Friday I attended the first Jacksonville PB&J (Party, Benefits & Jam). PB&J brings people together every two months to raise money for a local charity. This time we raised money for The Sanctuary on 8th Street, a place to develop inner city youth. Al Letson was a speaker there, and he talked about the poetry slams he has been doing for years. I'd never *really* listened to one before, but he quoted several other poets, and the power of those words blew me away. The writing is punchy, taut, visceral—everything I aspire to as a writer. One quote in...
Akrasia, or How to Stop Checking E-mail
My calendar says I should write today from 8:00am until noon. I began thinking about possibly writing at 9:28, and I've been glancing back and forth between potential titles, hacker news, and my e-mail since then. It's 10:31. I like writing. I want to write. The moment I get stuck on a word or I'm not sure how to structure the essay, I “give myself a minute to think” … by checking my e-mail. The good news is that I only have 10 e-mails left in my normally bulging inbox. I have my inbox configured to show 100 messages per...