From the time we are children, we are taught a mistruth. It’s such a mind-boggling lie, that I’m surprised society still deigns to teach little susceptible minds such a lie. I was taught this lie, as were you. It is the lie below.
The only thing that matters in all that we do is that we succeed. It doesn’t matter if we gave our level best, or that we enjoy doing said items. If we do not succeed, that item doesn’t matter.
Does this lie ring a bell? It isn’t the only lie that is spoon fed to us. And there are many others that are being fed to us. I think this lie is the worst of them all because it ruins all good things in our lives.
For example, I loved to write as a child. I loved creating new stories out of nothing but my imagination. I would sit down for hours with the children in my neighbourhood on cold pavements, and draughty stairwells, and awe them with horror stories, and fantasy stories. Worlds made up entirely out of nothing, but a few neurons beating to the same pulse in my head. It was miraculous. To me. Everyone else thought it was a waste of time.
You are a great writer, they said. But it will never make you any money. It will never change the world. It will never make you rich, and famous. It isn’t a useful skill in any regard. You should focus all of your efforts on something different, like the Sciences, or Maths – these will at least get you a great well-paying job.
The Only Thing That Matters Is Success
God damn them for saying those words to me. The main message that was parlayed to me was ‘If you are doing something that won’t make you money, it is a useless endeavour, and should be eschewed as soon as possible.’
What a miserable lesson that was and what a fool I was to take that lesson to heart and give up writing.
I despise myself for being so susceptible to their teachings, but I was 12, and I believed in my caretakers, teachers, and parents.
The only thing that matters in such a mindset is success. If we are doing something that might not bring us success, or is just for fun, then it should be given up.
There are so many freaking problems with such a statement, that I don’t even know how to begin. I’ll attempt to dissect the wrongness of it, slowly over the next few hundred words. Bear with me, while I do so.
The Love Of A Craft Matters More Than Anything Else
In my quest to figure out why certain people are successful and others are not, I have realized this ultimate truth. The people who love their craft the most are the ones who are going to endeavour to spend 10,000 hours or more on their craft, master their craft, and be successful in their craft.
The people who are just doing it for the money or the fame or the accolades, will give up after the first or second or tenth hard knock. They will not stick with it, because they don’t care enough about it.
In my own life, I started many things for the money. I started a lot of different things, because I cared about getting rich. I wanted to get rich, so I could spend all of my days writing. That was my end goal with everything. I wanted to be a full-time writer. I have wanted to be a full-time writer since I was 12, since I knew what it was to be a full-time anything. Really, I want to write all day long.
But in my mind, I had the misconception that I would do other things to build up my fortune, and then I would have the time affluence to sit around and write all day.
I had switched it around in my head, inaccurately.
The 10,000 Hours Rule
Anything that we want to be successful at, we have to become masters at. The ones who are at the top of their field, are there because they are the masters of their craft. They aren’t dilly-dallying or just trying it out. They are fully immersed in it. They spend thousands of hours in deliberate practice. They aren’t just strumming the guitar misguidedly, or writing a couple of words here and there.
They are practicing for ten hours a day on their craft or sometimes more.
They are spending a lot of their brainpower on their craft. Even if they have a full-time job that pays the bills, they are spending all of their free time on the stuff that they care about.
Even when I had a full-time job, I would spend all of my free time or as much as possible on yoga and writing. The two things I cared about deeply. My health and my words.
Deep Work And Deliberate Practice
Deep practice is hard work. It takes a lot out of us.
I write a lot everyday. But I know that once I finish my words, I am useless. I cannot do anything else for the rest of the day that requires a lot of thought. I used up all of myself, by taking everything from inside of me, and putting it on the piece of paper.
A piece of my soul is in those words.
Deep work matters. The deeper we can work on our crafts, the better we will get at it, and the more success we will find at it.
Most of us don’t want to do deep work, because it is hard on the body and mind. It causes us to use ourselves up, and we don’t like that, understandably so.
Stop Focusing On Results – Move To Process
Eric Maisel, one of the top creativity coaches in the world, says, his mantra is Process. Because of him, I adapted process as my mantra. (Check out his book on Creative Anxiety).
Due to the lie that we have been fed, all of us focus way too much with debilitating effect on success and results. We have become a results-oriented society. If something isn’t going to get us results, we stop focusing on it. Way too many children have given up on stuff they love to do, because their parents have told them they aren’t going to get anywhere with it.
It is absolutely bonkers.
Most of the successful creative people in the world, were told over and over again that they should focus on something reasonable, something that would make them more money, something that will get them somewhere real. It’s nonsense
We really need to start focusing on the process of having fun and playing with the stuff we like to do.
Who Cares About Success?
As I said I write a lot of words everyday. But why do I write? Do I get paid to write? Will I ever get paid to write? Will I ever be ‘successful’ at it?
I don’t give a damn.
I have realized I want to write because I love to write. Success, if it comes or doesn’t come, doesn’t matter.
Even if I was never ever a ‘successful’ writer, I am still a success to myself. Why? Because I am writing. The act of putting words to paper makes me a success. When the entire world is telling me to shut up, and not write, I am giving them the finger, and writing words.
They are so important to me, the more I write, the more I realize how important writing is to me.
Just the act of writing words matters to me. It doesn’t matter what happens to them after they are shipped out into the world. People like them or don’t like them, doesn’t matter.
The results don’t matter.
The act matters.
Move To Focusing On Process In Your Field
What is the process in your field? Your creative act will have a process. My creative act is about putting words on paper. That is the process. Write words, ship into the world, write more words, ship them into the world, and repeat over and over again.
That is all.
It’s quite simple if you think about it.
I think I overcomplicated it for decades. Now I know that the only thing that matters is writing words and shipping them into the world.
What process should you focus on? If it’s music, then it might be doing your practice everyday, sitting down with your instrument and letting your fingers run on them playing something. If it’s acting, it might be auditioning as many times as possible.
The process is different for each creative act, but the basic fact remains. Focus on the process. Forget about the results.
If we do the process right, the results won’t really matter.