Maybe he thought he could ask the question because I wasn't known. I was a normal guy just like him. And yet I apparently had this magical power he wanted to understand.
In my last post I mentioned that, despite so many false starts, I'd been holding onto the winning strategy all along. But before I get into specifics of writing and marketing books, there's a different strategy that a lot of aspiring creators need to apply first.
It involves changing your mindset.
If you're a self-help junkie seeking the secret magic bullet to success, these may sound like the same platitudes you've come across a million times. The thing is... they're all true. But like all things, you can't just acknowledge them in your head. You have to believe them in your gut.
What made these "steps" finally click came from talking to a number of successful pros, and studying successful people. They all had different paths, but every single one of them has these 7 elements in common in their stories.
#1 Define Success - First you have to visualize it. Not in abstract, but in concrete terms. What does it look like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like?
What you tell yourself is what you will achieve. If you don't think you're good enough, you won't be. If you think that all you'll get out of your hard work is failure, you're right. If you think what you really want out of life is nothing but a pipe dream, it is.
#2 Have A Strategy - I've managed projects in my day job, so I can attest to the power of having a solid project plan at the outset. Nothing motivates an engineer better than a hard deadline with consequences for missing it. The idea doesn't just apply to IT and business. You need to handle your life like you would a business if you want a return on your investment.
The difference between goals and dreams is a timetable. Set a plan to keep focused. Break your goals down into measurable benchmarks and deadlines.
But just as a goal is near impossible to reach without a project plan, a plan is not worth much without an end state goal. You have to know what you are working for. Always keep that north star in sight and make sure your plan is moving toward it.
#3 Turn Intention into Attention - This one is probably the hardest. They call them comfort zones for a reason. This requires a conscience decision to stop dreaming and start doing. This is what the old saying about the road to Hell means. All the good intentions in the world mean squat if you don't act on them.
No more some-days. No more maybes. Do not accept any more excuses. Never quit. Make every decision like your life depended on it. Because in a way it does.
One way to stay motivated is to learn to recognize little successes. When you hit one of your little benchmarks in your plan from #2, celebrate it. No step forward is too small.
#4 Take Risks - For some this may be just as hard. Part of making that decision to take deliberate steps forward involves overcoming fear. Believe it or not, fear of success is stronger than fear of failure.
But therein lies the rub. Because there WILL be failure on your journey. You need to understand and accept that up front. And when failure comes, don't dwell on it. Own it and move on.
#5 Deal with Reality - This one may seem contradictory. Just because you think you want something doesn't mean it will happen.
On one hand, I loathe the the old parental axiom, "Not everyone gets to be an astronaut." I hate the idea of telling a kid what they can't be. But the statement itself is not untrue.
If the thing you defined back in #1 isn't happening the way you think it should be, then you have to make an adjustment to either your expectations or to your project plan.
Don't live in denial. Don't delude yourself. Understand and accept your limitations--differentiating between an actual limitation and your own imaginary ones. Admit when something isn't working. But don't stop there! Course correct. Take a good hard look at your expectations and your plan and make changes where needed. The trick, though, as I said above is to not dwell on it. Stick with point #3 and keep moving forward. Learn and adapt.
Nothing worth having comes without hard work. LOTS of hard work.
The rest of the line from this epic scene in Pursuit of Happyness is...
"You got a dream? You gotta protect it. People can't do something themsleves, they want to tell you you can't do it. If you want something, go get it. Period."
Which takes us to...
#6 Network - Another huge lesson that Chris Gardner learned is that NO ONE succeeds alone. When you need help, ask for it. Surround yourselves with encouraging, like minded people who share your passion and support them as much as they will support you.
Part of this process is get rid of toxic people from your orbit. This may include purging yourself of toxic voices in your own head that likely sound like people from your past. Are they holding you back, keeping you mired in regret and inaction? Get rid of them. Or at the very least, marginalize them so they don't have so much influence over you.
Do you really want something? I mean really want it in your bones? Then don't half ass it. Stay focused on it. Define what your motivation is for WHY you want it.
Always maintain a positive mental attitude about it. The only way you will be able to stick to your plan and pick yourself back up when you trip over one of those hurdles is to stay excited about what you are trying to achieve.
Now... I am writing this as someone who, to date, has done everything wrong.
I thought I had my vision of success defined pretty well, but not really. And I got stuck there. I meandered about it without a project plan. Being honest with myself, I half-assed a lot of it. I always thought of it in terms of some day. I had every good intention without taking tangible action. I didn't take many risks, at least not on the right things. Because I held onto unrealistic expectations of myself and how the business worked.
And when I did take big risks and fell on my face, I wasted more time than I want to admit dwelling on them. I wouldn't let go of unrealistic expectations. I wouldn't give myself enough credit for the small victories. I alienated myself from more than one network. I lost my passion. And I definitely didn't maintain a positive mental attitude through most of it.
I used to think that I was incapable of doing any of the things named above, mainly because I suffer from crippling social anxiety. I am no salesman.
But can you guess what was another thing that damn near every single working self-publisher I talked to had in common? They all considered themselves (either currently or in their past) to be socially awkward and shy.
Meaning that was just another excuse I was leaning on to hold myself back.
I know I'm a good writer. I've had enough qualified people throughout my life tell me as much, so I know I'm not kidding myself. I have studied my craft. I have applied feedback to improve. In 2014 I was nominated by the New Pulp Awards for Best New Writer. I got 3 novellas published. I taught myself how to produce my own book and published it myself.
If I don't say so myself, it's damn good. I don't consider myself a great literary wordsmith. I tell stories. And they are all stories that I think will resonate as they entertain.
Next up, I'll get into the details of what it will take to get there.