Saturday, January 11, 2014

Hard work, motivation, and success

Questionable graphics, but excellent observations.

Ben told me earlier this week that I was inspiring.  It was odd to hear because I feel anything but an inspiration.  One of my mantras for the last several months has been, "Fall down 7 times, get up 8."  The experience of constant rejection or even outright failure [I choked horribly on an Excel problem that should have been a breeze - though I think that other factors were at play and I subconsciously self selected my way out of the position] have been discouraging and sometimes agonizing. I'm not particularly accustomed to not exceeding expectations.

There have been days when I have wanted to stay buried beneath my covers and wish the world away.  I'm proud to say that they only times I've truly succumbed to this urge is when I've been flat out sick. Instead, I early on adopted a coping mechanism of music and comedy, not only listening to it to motivate and produce the laughter / endorphin response, but it, thanks, especially to Youtube's suggestion sidebar, has enabled me to find interviews with some of my most favorite artists about their process of success. What I found most interesting is that they all admitted to it being an ongoing process, even having achieved "success", it involved a great deal of work.

Of the artists I most appreciate and respect, they have all experienced imposing situations of disadvantage, adversity, rejection, and failure.  I also discussed this with a star college soccer player that I met on my flight back to San Francisco after Thanksgiving and she wholeheartedly agreed: it seems too often that we only see the success and don't realize the sheer effort and dedication, the wall of willpower that it requires to achieve and maintain success. 

Of success stories, I hesitate to call them inspirational, but more educational.  They teach us that "failure" is really not that at all.  Think about it: when a child is learning their language or how to walk or spatial recognition, but says "refrigabator", falls down, or initially tries to put the square in the triangle opening, we don't say that they've "failed", we encourage them to learn and master.   The fact is that "failure" is an iterative process that includes a learning curve.  A learning curve must include the determination to get up, again and again, until you find that sweet spot or you nail it or encounter that avenue of compatible personalities and goals for a successful ongoing series of results.

Additionally, even the most successful realize that they have to do this on a continual basis. The myth of "having it made" is a dangerous one.  My favorite interviews are from my favorite comedians, musicians and actors, "A Listers", who are phenomenally successful and openly admit that at the end of a tour or a movie or a show that they are often back in a position to have to pitch an idea, go to audition after audition, do small sets to work out their material for a full show, or go back to the drawing board and create an entirely new piece of work / album...whatever the circumstance may be.

It's sometimes easy to forget this, to feel the shame in rejection and not gratitude that someone has done you a favor by helping you to steer away from something that was a poor fit or something that you perhaps weren't quite prepared to take on.  The importance is remembering that the challenges will never cease; by definition you will launch and enjoy the thrill of soaring, but even on an existential level, gravity will bring you right back to a starting point and life's a marathon and not a sprint, so take the long view and keep at it.  I personally think that we're hardwired for challenge and creating success, but it truly does require dedication.  Look at us, we survived saber toothed tigers, right?  But not by sitting down and expecting them to saunter off.

Most of all, I think that this attainment of our goals is only sweetened by our vital investment in and commitment to the process of achieving them...and on that note, this.


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