It was another Sunday evening. And I was doing what I had been doing for almost every Sunday night for the better part of a decade… Getting together with a friend to talk about how our week went. And in fairly typical Sunday night fashion the conversation had moved onto movies we’d seen the prior week (yes, movies… This was prior to having kids), what a hack this director was, and how much better of a job we could have done with than that guy. We were both working jobs we hated and in hindsight a lot of it was thinly veiled commiseration about why we weren’t getting anywhere with our dreams.
At some point… after an embarrassing number of years of this pattern… I came to an inescapable conclusion: I have spent most of my adult life sitting around waiting for good things to come my way.
Do you know what happens when a person sits around waiting for good things to come their way?
Nothing. Nothing happens. Nothing comes their way.
But wait you say… What about such-and-such a situation?! I mean just consider what happened to that lucky jerk! Why, if I had been sitting around in a similar manner can you imagine what could have happened to me.
Think about it for a second… Do you know why we’re sitting around talking about such-and-such a situation, or that particular lucky jerk?
The reason we’re sitting around talking about it is that it is so unusual as to be worthy of talking about. I mean, think about it… If amazing things regularly happened to people who just spent all their time sitting around waiting for amazing things to happen to them then it wouldn’t be noteworthy at all!
“Did you hear that Bob was sitting around watching TV drinking Pabst yesterday (what a hipster!) when he got a call from the producers of American Idol wanting him to be a contestant?”
“You’re kidding! I didn’t even know Bob could sing! But that’s nothing… Some guy from Hollywood just knocked on Joe’s door and offered him the opportunity to direct a big-budget action movie produced by Steven Spielberg?”
“No kidding! Wow, those guys sure are lucky! They were just sitting around doing nothing and these amazing opportunities just fell in their laps! Gee, it sure is nice that the world is like that and just randomly hands everyone their dreams come true!”
Alright, so those examples are a bit extreme, but as I look back on that time in my life, and compare it to now- a time where I’m actively working to make my dreams come true- this is what occurs to me:
“Back then you wouldn’t have known what to do with it even if everything you have had been given to you on a silver platter.”
It was the years of not even being able to give away my work, of struggling to find a style, learning how to use the equipment, improving in my craft, making my first few sales, seeing some success, seeing some failure, and ultimately learning how to do the work which made me able to recognize opportunities that were coming my way, and made me ready to be successful when those opportunities presented themselves.
In the end (and contrary to my last post) there really is a secret to being successful in a meaningful and career-sustaining way… Do the work.
What are you working on right now? Tell me about it in the comments below!