Day job deadlines. Manuscript commitment to the editor. Beginning of a new career branch (nothing to worry, I’m not abandoning writing). The occasional existential loneliness of the gifted. Decay of relationships. Ultimately, the weight resting on my shoulders became heavier and one of the most important lessons in management returned to say a quick but noticeable hello - we don’t have infinite time and energy.
While time can be a little easier to manage, energy is tricky. For the past few weeks, I’d been getting home at night at the usual time with a few hours left for writing. Those remaining hours went to the manuscript I had to deliver to my editor. My brain squeezed out of words, I’d retire even if I still had a couple of things to do.
“Lately, I’ve been making friends with the doubts in my head, hanging on every word that they said,” sang Kris Allen in Time Will Come, one of the tracks from his latest album Letting You In.
I couldn’t blog for weeks.
I felt envious of the success stories being plastered all around me.
I resented hanging around with people.
Worse, I thought of the possibility I was taking the wrong path of life.
30 years’ worth of doubts and fears, even after being buried underground, could still resurface in moments of vulnerability. My old demons returned to haunt me. But I faced them and soon enough vanquished them. Again. I did it before. I could do it once more.
THE ILLUSION AND THE DELUSION
If you’re pursuing your purpose and your dreams, it’s easy to fall at times into the mental trap that you’re not making any progress. Everywhere, on traditional and social media, you see people wearing their medals of success with bravado and announcing it to the world. Due to frustration, tiredness, or even loneliness, you feel envious. Thus, you ask yourself, “Why them? Why not me?” You want to turn around, do something else, or, worse, give up. The doubts in your heads have turned friendly.
There are two things you need to remember if you fall into that mental trap: the illusion and the delusion of success.
The illusion of success is an iceberg. More often, when stories of success are presented to us, we’re only shown the tip of the iceberg, success’ prize. Golden. Glittering. Glamorous. Underneath the iceberg (or behind the story) are the tales that the narrators don’t want us to hear or, worse, we ourselves refuse to hear. Nobody wants to see the dirty and difficult side of success because only the prize matters, the selfish narrators trick us into believing.
Lying in my bed a few minutes before I go to sleep, I remind myself, “Yes, Xeno. You’re struggling right now. You’re tired, stressed, agitated, feeling like an impostor, and afraid. But that’s okay. There’s no success without failure, sacrifice, disappointment, and hard work. You’re on the right track.”
Look at the picture of the iceberg above. Now look at it as a weird-shaped mountain floating a few feet from the ground. Ask yourself the following question. How do you get to the peak? By climbing from the bottom and making your way to the top. On your journey to the summit of success, you can’t NOT pass through the “unappealing” requirements. It’s a rite of passage. There’s no success with struggles. No success without challenges. No success without discomfort. And no success without a problem to overcome. Be grateful if you have problems to solve. That means life is giving you the opportunity to become better. You can’t arrive at success without climbing your way up unless you take a helicopter and fly directly to the peak which leads us to…
The delusion of success is filled with shortcuts. We’re now used to getting things fast. News reach our fingertips in seconds on Twitter. Updates in our family’s and friends’ lives pop on our newsfeed before we’re ready to receive them. Music gets to our ears without going to a record store. Information is easily retrieved with the help of Google. Because everything appears to be attained quick now, we assume the same with success.
We think uploading one YouTube video will make us the next viral sensation.
We think writing one novel will turn us into the next J.K. Rowling.
We think setting up one business will propel us to billionaire status right away.
This is by no means to discourage anyone from taking that first step into following their dreams. Go ahead! Take that first step. Take the leap! But when you land, don’t presume a pot of gold will be lying right next to your feet. Be prepared for nothing. Be prepared to leap again and again and again and again…
We can’t go to success’ door, knock, and expect to be welcomed in its house. We have to pay our dues.
Great things take time. Behind every successful person are lots of unsuccessful years and rejections. Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With The Wind was rejected 38 times before finding a publisher. Stephen King’s Carrie received 30 rejections. William Golding’s Lord of the Flies was rejected 20 times. If these authors gave up quickly on their first try then we wouldn’t have these books in the world of literature.
In his book Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill said this about persistence:
We build the foundation of success with persistence during our time of being unsuccessful. The stronger our foundation, the more lasting success will be. Look at the legends in music, what some calls music’s Holy Trinity: Madonna, the late Michael Jackson and the late Prince. They are viewed as successful not because they had a hit single or an album during their peaks but because even after hitting the jackpot at different points in their careers, they keep moving, making music after music, building their vast discographies that will last time beyond their time on Earth.
There’s a reason we don’t remember the names of those who quit. There’s also a reason we don’t remember those who took shortcuts. The roots of their success weren’t deep.
“I’m such a long way from where I, long way from where I wanna be,” Allen sang in the song’s chorus. “So I’ll keep moving on cause I know my time will come,” he repeated a few times until the end of the song, reminding us to never give up and keep trying.
Your time will come. Never give up. Keep trying.
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