If someone asked me what I thought the key to success was in any endeavor, I would reply:
“Two things. Firstly, know exactly why you are doing what you are doing. Secondly, develop a thick skin.”
Over the years, I have learned the vital importance of having those two key things in place.
All else aside, those two things will make sure you stay the course and get to where you want to be.
Know Exactly Why You Are Doing Something
Whether you are trying to find success as a writer, painter, musician, real estate agent (Lord help you), maker of matchstick models or trying to be the next captain of the Starship Enterprise, the process of getting to where you want to be is the same.
It’s the process of achievement.
And to achieve anything, you have to know why you are doing it. The bigger “why” that is, not just the small “whys” of wanting more money or a bigger house or whatever else floats your boat, materially speaking.
No, I’m talking about the sense of purpose that will keep you going through thick and thin. The one thing that will motivate you to suffer through the boredom and drudgery of practice every day, often with the feeling that you are getting nowhere at all and that everything is just a big waste of time, which is how you will feel quite often.
If you don’t have that big “why” hanging over your head, spurring you on, you will quit.
This is why people who start things for the wrong reasons never finish them.
If your only goal is to get famous or make money, you will quit sooner rather later. Believe me, it takes more than shallow motivations to keep you plugging away, day after day.
You need a reason for doing things that comes from your gut, from the depths of your soul. That reason needs to be tied up with who you are as a person, and why you are here on this earth. Nothing less will do.
As much as I want success in material terms, that isn’t what motivates me to write everyday. Fuck, there are thousands of much easier ways to make money these days. Writing purely for the money is a joke, and can’t be done.
What keeps me writing is the need I have to live my purpose, to follow my heart and do what feels right to me, which happens to be writing.
I have a burning desire to get better at what I do, a desire to master the craft I have chosen to spend my life on. I want to produce the best work I possibly can, and it just so happens that material rewards come as a result of that. But the material rewards only allow me to keep on writing and improving. They are not the main reason I write.
So if you want to stay the course and succeed at something, make sure you dig deep to find your true motivation, to find the why that will keep you going through thick and thin, because you are going to need it.
Develop A Thick Skin
The world we live in can be very cruel. There are hordes of people out there who enjoy nothing better than criticizing and hating the hard work of others.
But that’s life and you had better get used to it, otherwise you will end up trampled under foot and left for dead in the dust, along with your shattered dreams.
The path of achievement and accomplishment does not come easy. Right from the start, you will face many disappointments, many failures, many setbacks and much, often cruel, criticism from others.
When you dare to walk the path less traveled, other people who don’t walk the same path will look on you unfavorably. “Who do you think you are?” they will say. “Stop dreaming and get a real job like the rest of us.“
To which you will say, “Fuck off!“
Alright, maybe not quite so blunt. But you can’t listen to people like that. If you do, you will end up just like them, living a mundane life with nothing but the memories of the dreams you once had and the aching regret you carry around with you.
No matter what anyone else says, or what their opinion is, it is imperative that you carry on regardless. It is human nature for most people to err on the side of caution when it comes to following their dreams, which is why they will try to make you the same.
Unlike those people though, your sense of purpose will drive you on, despite what they say, because you know in your bones that you are meant to be on the path you are on. It’s that simple. It’s destiny for you. That’s how you have to feel about it. That is the attitude that will allow you to remain unaffected by the negative attitudes of others.
Same with people criticizing your work. You have to be prepared for that. It can be a shock when someone rips apart your work, or when someone completely hates it. That sort of shock can make you quit if you don’t have a thick skin.
You need a thick skin in order to deflect the inevitable criticism and negativity that will come your way.
Also, don’t let the fear of being rejected or criticized put you off from putting yourself and your work out there. You can’t succeed without laying yourself on the line, its as simple as that.
Here’s a quote from YA writer, Laney McCann, from an article she wrote on fear and having a thick skin:
“The truth is, everyone has an opinion about every damn thing. Everyone always will. But you get to choose what you allow into your world and what you block out.”
Laney is absolutely right about that. You do get to choose what you allow into your world. You make your own reality in a sense. Make sure your reality is one where you are not affected by fear and negative people. Not if you want to succeed anyway.
The Road Less Traveled Is Always Tough Going
No matter how successful you become in your chosen endeavor, there will always be tough challenges to overcome.
You shouldn’t be dreaming of some rosy future anyway, because none really exists. All that exists is the present moment, and all that matters is what you are doing now, in this moment.
Spend your moments without any real purpose, trying to drive yourself with shallow motivations and worrying about what other people are thinking or saying about you, then you will most likely fail.
If you spend your moments living your purpose and managing your fears however, despite the challenges and setbacks-and despite other people-then you will find success…whatever success happens to be for you.