Friday, September 4, 2015

The One Rule to Being Successful: Keep on Keeping On

I want to become a successful blogger, writer, teacher, student of the world, friend, wife, and mother. Every one of these goals is earned through perseverance, hard work, and a lifetime of practice and improvement. But, as humans, we rarely think in terms of decades. For example, we have a hard time with "I'm going to give up every Friday night to write from now on and then ten years from now I might have one or two really great books." Instead we lose sight of our goals temporarily, decide they're not feasible, or convince ourselves that they're just not that important to us. For now.

Free stock photo of cup, mug, desk, office

But then what happens? A few months pass and you realize you haven't posted a single blog post. You realize how  much fun you had writing a blog, the rush it gave you, and the sense of accomplishment you felt when you increased your readership from a measly one to a whole two people. Now you have to start all over.

And as far as the whole feasibility thing goes, nothing is unfeasible if you work toward it your whole life. In Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, we discover that successful writers, musicians, wrestlers, and programmers don't have some magic gene that guarantees them a life of prosperity. No, they just put in a hell of a lot of hours (10,000 approximately) to get good at what they're now known for. And when opportunity meets preparation, special things begin to happen.

So what are your realistic chances of success right now with your own blog, book, or other project?

Let's take a look.

In a world where we devour online content, watch dozens of videos per week, and know more about what our acquaintances all over the country are doing than what the person sitting next to us on the couch is doing, it still surprises me that there is so much inactivity online. For example, according to the Wall Street Journal 44% of Twitter accounts have never sent a tweet, and Marketing Land says over 70% of Facebook accounts are inactive. So what do you need to do to continue gaining followers and building your platform? Just keep putting stuff out there. Retraction. Keep putting good stuff out there.

Now let's talk about writing books. First of all, I think we need to address the different stages/versions of author. First you have the Idea Generator, the person who says "Hey, you know what would be a good book idea?" and then makes a note to themselves to pop out a quick book when they get the chance. Then you have the ADD author who just can't stay focused on any one thing (I am currently several thousand words in to at least three different books). Then you have the Faint at the Finish Line author who keeps it up through the whole book and peters out at the end. And finally, the author who actually finishes what they started. I'm not going to go into published/non-published here because, well, finishing a book as an accomplishment in itself.

What makes any one of the authors stand out from the other? Time devoted to the craft, discipline, perseverance, and hard work. I think too many people get tied up in making their first efforts perfect when what they need to be focusing on is just getting some words onto the paper to keep up momentum. Your first draft is going to be sloppy, riddled with errors, it won't flow how you intended, some things won't make sense, some characters won't belong, and some of the phrases you labored over for an embarrassingly long time will have to be cut. So don't dwell on it, just finish it.

Free stock photo of book, book pages, burned pages

To wrap it all up with a tidy bow I want to take a look at one more very important statistic. Only 5% of any population can sustain change. That means only 5% of people will be able to put in several hours a week to update their blogs with fresh and engaging content, only 5% of people will be able to transform an inkling of a book idea into a polished journey of over 90,000 words, and probably just 5% are still reading this because I've rambled for far too long.

So...yeah. Keep on keeping on.

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