Many of us need help to know how to choose success. You might think knowing how to choose success is some innate trait. One where we each get an equal amount of wisdom to help us. As with many things in life, that is not the case.
When it comes to making right decisions, most of us trust our gut and think we know what we are doing. Often, our actions and outcomes prove otherwise. In other words, it’s easy to make poor choices even with good intent. You see it all the time.
You do not have to look far to find artists who are busy, earnest, and with good intentions, but their results don’t show it. Their careers aren’t matching their potential or the effort they are putting into it. They are floundering despite having talent and work ethic. The mismatch is obvious even to casual observers.
If you identify a busy person not gaining success and then watch his or her actions, you find out what is going on. It’s not enough to be busy. Being busy on the wrong things is a career killer. It’s not enough to have great intentions either. To gain success, you must make the right choices about what to do and act on them first.
Not focusing on the most important things is the real culprit. Choosing success is about having a clear vision of what you want to achieve. It requires you make the best choices for the actions you will take to get you there. You build success by taking a series of actions – prioritized actions.
We are kept from our goal, not by obstacles but by a clear path to a lesser goal. – Robert Brault
I’m learning a great deal from reading the bestseller The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. The book has been been on more than 175 national bestseller lists, including #1 Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today.
It has changed my thinking about goal setting and to-do lists. Keller talks about making success lists. To him, to-do lists are just ways to be busy. Success lists are focused on getting the one thing done that will move you towards your goal. It’s potent thinking.
I also learned this from Gary Keller’s book. Those who focus on accomplishing one thing at a time get the most done. They achieve more. This flies in the face of those who see multitasking as a virtue. Attempting to multitask never works. You end up doing a bunch of things mired in mediocrity.
You choose your way. You do this by taking the time to narrow down what is most important to you in your career. If you are unsure about your path, you need to stop doing everything else until you are. There is no point in making art or marketing art if you don’t know why you are doing either. You are wasting your time, and setting yourself up for endless frustration.
With your path chosen, you can determine what actions you need to take to advance along your way. You must choose to make executing the actions in your plans as part of your daily routine. It’s a process, a conscious choice you make to become successful by doing the work, however hard it is to do. You choose to stop avoiding doing the things required to achieve success because you find them unpleasant, boring, or difficult.
They think successful people got lucky. They want to get lucky just like them. This is delusional thinking. It damages or ends careers.
Those who have the greatest success do the things the rest avoid. They do them as part of their everyday ritual. They don’t like doing unpleasant tasks any more than others do. They just use discipline to get them done. This is what sets them apart.
It’s easy to see the achievements of successful people. It is much harder to understand what they have done to get there. If you focus on the achievements, you miss the underlying work. Doing the work is the thing that fuels success.
Your favorite film actor makes a scene look natural. If the scene calls for it, you might see anger, lust, fear, greed and other emotions. There are nuances in expressions, voice, and movements. Some are subtle, others over the top. In the best performances, the audience is so taken in and fixated they forget they’re watching a film. It almost feels real. What you don’t see are the years of preparation and study that make moments on the screen memorable, or hours of rehearsal, practice, and memorizing lines.
It’s the same with successful artists. That is, in the glitter of success it is easy to miss the struggles and efforts it took to get there, or to create the art that has made them successful. It’s easy to overlook the blood, sweat and tears that happen in the making of a successful career for actors and artists.
Stephen Covey, in his monumental self-help book, The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, talks about choice. He explains while you may have had no choice about your circumstances, you have complete choice about how you react to them.
No matter what drawback you face, no matter what hardship life has put on you, you get to choose what you will do about it. You, and only you, choose how you deal with your art career circumstances.
You can say I live in a small town, no one buys art, and that’s why my career sucks. You can say you have a hard time adjusting to changing market conditions, or that learning new tech skills is beyond you, and that’s why your career is stuck. You can say others who succeed in similar situations were just lucky or blessed.
In all those statements what you find when you examine them are excuses and blame. It’s not my fault. I got a bad deal. I was unlucky because I was born and grew up here, got married here, and now I’m stuck here where I can never succeed. That’s just one version of using circumstances to explain why your career, despite your talent, has not taken wing.
I don’t need to tell you. In your heart of hearts, you know that is not the case. You know there are others who have less talent than you and come from worse circumstances and still found a way to create a successful career. You know there are others who have conquered seemingly insurmountable odds and went on to create successful careers.
If you accept what I am saying you know that others are having the success you want despite dealing with worse odds than you face, then you should agree it comes down to choices and actions. If you realize you are in control, you make the choices, then you can begin to build a dream career.
Learn to make the right decisions, stop sabotaging your career with poor choices. Get help to overcome what is in your way because almost no one can do it alone. Commit to start tackling those necessary things you have avoided doing.
Good choices and consistent incremental actions are a slow growth way to start. I believe the realization of the slow growth causes some artists to not engage and get going. For your career to take off, you need to lay a solid foundation.
You can’t launch a rocket on a shaky foundation.
Other artists are eager for success, but lack the discipline to stay the course. Or, they start and make progress but become disillusioned and quit because success does not come fast enough. Don’t give up three feet from gold.
The worse thing is to quit in exasperation just before you make it. Here is a passage from the Napoleon Hill 1937 classic, Think and Grow Rich:
THREE FEET FROM GOLD
One of the most common causes of failure is the habit of quitting when one is overtaken by temporary defeat. Every person is guilty of this mistake at one time or another. An uncle of R. U. Darby was caught by the “gold fever” in the gold-rush days and went west to DIG AND GROW RICH. He had never heard that more gold has been mined from the brains of men than has ever been taken from the earth. He staked a claim and went to work with pick and shovel. The going was hard, but his lust for gold was definite.
After weeks of labor, he was rewarded by the discovery of the shining ore. He needed machinery to bring the ore to the surface. Quietly, he covered up the mine, retraced his footsteps to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, told his relatives and a few neighbors of the “strike.” They got together money for the needed machinery, had it shipped. The uncle and Darby went back to work the mine.
The first car of ore was mined and shipped to a smelter. The returns proved they had one of the richest mines in Colorado! A few more cars of that ore would clear the debts. Then would come the big killing in profits. Down went the drills! Up went the hopes of Darby and Uncle! Then something happened! The vein of gold ore disappeared! They had come to the end of the rainbow, and the pot of gold was no longer there! They drilled on, desperately trying to pick up the vein again—all to no avail.
Finally, they decided to QUIT. They sold the machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, and t took the train back home. Some “junk” men are dumb, but not this one! He called in a mining engineer to look at the mine and do a little calculating.
The engineer advised that the project had failed because the owners were not familiar with “fault lines.” His calculations showed that the vein would be found JUST THREE FEET FROM WHERE THE DARBYS HAD STOPPED DRILLING! That is exactly where it was found! The “Junk” man took millions of dollars in ore from the mine because he knew enough to seek expert counsel before giving up.
Most of the money which went into the machinery was procured through the efforts of R. U. Darby, who was then a very young man. The money came from his relatives and neighbors, because of their faith in him. He paid back every dollar of it, although he was years in doing so. Long afterward, Mr. Darby recouped his loss many times over when he made the discovery that DESIRE can be transmuted into gold. The discovery came after he went into the business of selling life insurance.
Remembering that he lost a huge fortune, because he STOPPED three feet from gold, Darby profited by the experience in his chosen work, by the simple method of saying to himself, “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say ‘no’ when I ask them to buy insurance.” Darby is one of a small group of fewer than fifty men who sell more than a million dollars in life insurance annually. He owes his “stickability” to the lesson he learned from his “quitability” in the gold mining business.
Before success comes in any man’s life, he is sure to meet with much temporary defeat, and, perhaps, some failure. When defeat overtakes a man, the easiest and most logical thing to do is to QUIT. That is exactly what the majority of men do. More than five hundred of the most successful men this country has ever known told the author their greatest success came just one step beyond the point at which defeat had overtaken them. Failure is a trickster with a keen sense of irony and cunning. It takes great delight in tripping one when success is almost within reach.
Do those things and you control your future and will gain the success you deserve. I elaborate on Napoleon Hill’s wise words: