Why Cliches About Success Are Stupid

2011 August 29

Lately, more than one person has insinuated that I have something going on. As if maybe I’d become the universe’s teacher’s pet all of a sudden and was rolling around in good luck as if it was a kiddie pool full of chocolate pudding.

Here’s the real (pudding-free) scoop.

I made a decision. Okay, I make decisions every day (hardest one is not correcting my coworker’s grammatical gaffes), but this was a major one. I said no to something big. Or rather, I said not now. And I second-guessed this choice a lot. Saying yes feels like taking a risk, shaking things up, making a change. Saying no feels like running inside and locking the door, turning down opportunity, telling your friends that you can’t come out and play because you have homework. So, I told myself that I could only say no to this if I said yes to something else. And if I was going to say yes to something else, it better be something pretty damn good. If you’re gonna turn down the cake, you best eat the pie is my philosophy. All the better if it’s lemon meringue.

And when you do say yes to pretty damn good stuff and you do say to hell with being measured and moderate, stuff happens. Maybe the stuff is confined to your head and changes in your thinking. Maybe it bleeds out (but not through your ears, that would be so bad) in your everyday life and you start figuring out that the clichés about work, success and fulfillment are off-base and what looks like preferential treatment from the universe is actually you getting results for yourself and not realizing it or being too modest to hog the glory. For example:

Love means never saying you’re tired

It’s not that doing what you love doesn’t feel like work, it’s that you don’t care that it’s work. You will push yourself ridiculously hard because it doesn’t feel that hard in the moment. It feels necessary and doable and downright exploratory. Yes, even at 1:00 AM on a Tuesday.

Appetite for rejection

It’s not that things magically click into place and people start throwing cash at you, it’s that your thinking shifts and you become absolutely ravenous when it comes to seeking out and sinking your teeth into opportunities and some of these opportunities have dollar signs attached. And maybe these opportunities pan out and maybe they don’t, but instead of moping about rejection, you are willing to do the post-mortem on your approach because you’re invested (both emotionally and from a resource perspective) in getting a yes the next time or the time after that. It becomes less about “What am I doing wrong?” and more “How do I get this right?” Big difference.

Fear the fearless

You don’t suddenly get a confidence boost, you just want whatever it is that you want more than you want to save face or avoid the possibility of mortification. Once something (or heck, even someone) matters more to you than the fear of looking stupid, you are pretty much terrifyingly efficient in your single-mindedness. And if you’re coming up against someone in this mindset? You best be prepared, because a person with no fear of being rejected and with nothing to lose is the most formidable competitor you’ll ever face. Now go read The Hunger Games and try to argue with me, okay?

Get in or GTFO

And it’s not as if collaborators come out of the woodwork to woo you with new projects. It’s that you now see potential collaborators and collaborations everywhere and you approach your interactions with a sense of purpose and gravity and laser focus that communicates to people that they can get on the train or they can get hit by it, but those are really the only two options because sh*t just got real. And you better believe that that gets a response. People respond to people with a purpose. And if you have both a purpose and the psychic buzz that comes from being in your element? You’re pretty much going to have to fight co-conspirators off with a stick.

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