In 1990, sitting on a train stationed at Manchester, a book fanatic began to write. That day sparked a 5-year long journey creating what turned out to be 7 books in a famous series.
In 1992, the young writer moved to Portugal, notes in hand, to teach English. From there she taught for a brief while and then returned to the UK where she found a home in Edinburgh and continued to teach.
7 years later, in 1997, the first book ‘Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone’ was published.
You are probably fairly familiar with the story of J.K.Rowling’s journey to success. What is so curious though is the time it took her to achieve the levels of success we all know of her today.
7 years is a fairly hefty amount of time. 5 years of writing without any incline of success or positive reception must have been a difficult path to tread. How could she have been sure that the work she was putting in was going to receive any success at all?
For most of us, it would be a hard pill to swallow, to work for 5 years with no outward indication of reward. To only be able to dedicate a limited number of hours to a craft that we enjoyed so much. The idea of having to dedicate 7 years of our lives to something that would then be made or broken in a series of decisions that were out of our hands, would be a non-starter.
But yet here and evident in most uber-successful stories it is clear. It’s the story of hard work, perseverance and the ability to keep working, growing when no one is watching. It’s the ability to show up even when you have zero fans.
No. It’s the art of showing up to zero fans.
As a twenty-something, one of the major stumbling blocks is getting past this idea of investment fallacy. This idea that you are putting your eggs in a basket, regardless if you think you are or not. And therefore the weight of where you spend your time (or where you put your eggs) is quite pressured.
So how do you keep going and convince yourself you are on the track to greatness even though in the back of your mind you’re not sure? How do you keep going even though you’ve got no evidence to tell you that this is what you should be doing?
That this is the way for you to ‘make it’.
1.Positive Self Belief
“When you grow up you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world. Try not to bash into the walls too much. Try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life. Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact: Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it… Once you learn that, you’ll never be the same again.” Steve Jobs
When you haven’t made it yet it’s hard to have faith that this is the right path. It’s hard to believe you are destined for much more than an ordinary life, after all, you are an ordinary person.
When you are surrounded by so many different ways to walk, it feels like every step you take down this path is a step away from the other paths. And you have this sinking feeling that maybe you are walking the wrong way.
The truth though is that our reality is whatever we want it to be. There are a million reasons to be happy about the world and where you are and equally a million other reasons to feel like life is on a downward spiral. It doesn’t really matter what’s going on around you, it’s how you choose to look at it.
The belief that you are going the right way is 6/10ths of the battle. If you spend your time in the ‘what if’ zone, your spending time away from what will get you to where you want to go.
What ifs are wasted because no one really knows the answer.
Ultimately we are not sure what tomorrow will bring. We can be fairly certain the weather report might be kind of accurate and that you’ll turn up for work in the same way you always do. And fairly sure is all we’ve got — it’s enough to work with.
You don’t need to be equivocally convinced that this is your calling in life and thus this is your only trajectory to success. What does help though is to know the following:
- That you enjoy what you’re doing.
- You can see yourself doing it for a fair while.
- The potential upside is worth the reward.
Anything else is a bonus. Don’t spend time worrying about what if. If you can answer those three questions above with a ‘yes’, that’s enough to keep your head down and keep working for the next handful of months. That’s enough to believe in what you’re doing.
We are often limited to what thoughts we subject ourselves too. If we think we are capable of earning $40,000 a year, that will be our upper limit. Whilst it’s good to be conservative in your estimations and expectations, it’s not so good for self-belief to be conservative on your aspirations.
Dream big, believe you can. After all, everything you know and love was created by people no smarter than you.
2.Deep Understanding of the Perception of Time
“If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time.” — Steve Jobs
There is this sellable story that goes round perhaps every day in the entrepreneur world. The story of overnight success. The story of some young coder stumbling across a glitch in the matrix and getting a 7-figure deal the very next day. It makes us feel like that is the rule and not the exception.
This story works because it feels like a shortcut. It tricks us into thinking that this hard-work thing everyone bangs on about isn’t the only way to succeed. We all know, or at least most of the time we are told, that hard work is the way to achieving things we want. Work hard, for a long time and you’ll find your success.
The Idea of the Third-Door
However, the notion of the ‘over-night success’ makes us think that there is a third-door that no one has ever told us about. It makes us feel like all this time there was something people weren’t willing to tell us. A secret that was kept a secret until this 14-year old coder discovered it.
It then gives us permission to look for the quick buck. To sell on Amazon or to start that company and sell it within 4 months.
Unfortunately, though, this feeling is what the media outlets want you to grip onto. They want you to feel like you’ve been told a lie and that actual success is just an overnight thing.
What they are selling you is the exception, not the rule.
It’s true, some people do work for a relatively short period of time and stumble upon huge success. However, for most people, it’s years and years of hard work. Years and years of set-backs, financial strain, heart-ache. And that’s not a bad thing because really, we have quite a lot of time.
The reality is we are living longer, more fruitful lives than ever before. We can fall into the trap of trying to rush through life and complete it as quick as possible but what happened to enjoying the process? What happened to learning through failing and figuring out a new way? When we don’t put much effort into things we find the reward unfulfilling and surface deep. Somehow the gain feels fraudulent as if we haven’t put the allocated time in to achieve these things.
Remember, you have lots of time and your effort, in a lot of respects, determines the reward.
3.Acute Awareness of Who You Are
“Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.” — Thomas Jefferson
Knowing yourself is perhaps the best investment of time you can ever make. If you truly know yourself you can start to use the insights you’ve gained about yourself to your advantage. You can start to see a pattern in your moods, you can compensate for your blind spots and pivot away from your weaknesses.
Once you start to audit yourself you will notice commonalities that come up time and time again.
- Getting moody before your morning coffee.
- Being blunt just before lunchtime.
- Finding it easier to concentrate in the morning.
There are obvious advantages to knowing these things about yourself. The biggest advantage though is engineering your day to allow you to be as productive as possible. Take the insight around energy, say for instance you are most productive in the mornings. It would make the most sense to get up early each day and start work. This allows you to get more done and work with your energy levels not against them.
Figure Out the Story of Yourself
Learning these things, over time, tells you an accurate story about yourself. You will learn how to optimise many things, including your happiness. Do you feel happier when you’ve had a productive day? Is seeing your friends or working on your passion part of what increases your happiness?
Starting to ask yourself these questions will allow you to explore how you become more successful. If you focus your efforts on understanding when you feel most motivated, for example, you can optimise your efforts towards increasing motivation. Likewise, if you find yourself always feeling down after you’ve worked on your side hustle for 5 hours and you still haven’t received any sales for the day, what is something that will bring you back up?
If you don’t know you need to experiment. Here are a few ideas of what to try:
- Research successful people to understand how they coped in the early days of not obviously succeeding.
- Find some inspirational materials (YouTube, Podcast, Medium) that help you bring perspective to where you are in your life.
- Speak to people that are successful and seek advice.
Make sure you are aware of which ones lift your spirits and motivation and which ones do not.
Other things like:
- Going for a run.
- Watching a documentary.
- Speaking to a friend about how you’re feeling.
May also work. Once you’ve tested a few you can track which ones work and test them out time and time again.
Try → measure → learn
Repeat this cycle until you have a 95% success rate of increasing your motivation. And then you can move onto your next problem, self-belief for example.
Find out who you are, learn what influences your behaviour and don’t stop till you get a 95% success rate.
The truth is that you will never really know if you are on the path to success. I don’t know if I am. But I believe I can make it. And that’s the difference.
Whatever ‘making it’ means to you, you have to believe you have the capabilities to get there. You need to have a realistic expectation of how long it takes to achieve success and therefore you need to learn to be patient.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, despite what we’re told.
Finally, you need to develop self-awareness. This is for nothing other than making sure you stick to the path you’ve chosen. It’s easy to sit and question what you are doing and where you are going, it’s hard to sit, putting all those thoughts out of mind, and just walk your path.
Success, real success, takes time, patience and a big heap of self-belief. You are capable of absolutely anything. Just believe in yourself.