Success is each to his or her own, but let’s call it like we see it: when you survey the landscape of your creative world, your industry, your career or hobby–whatever field you’re in– there are several fundamentals to achieving success, regardless of the measure. There are commonalities that are undeniable. So here’s a list of thirteen such things that you should be doing right now – let’s call it your hit list:
1. Get shit done.
Over-thinking, pontificating, and wondering are tools for the slacker. People don’t care what almost happened, or what your problems are or why something wasn’t. They care about what is, and what will be. That requires actually making stuff happen. Pros do, make, ship, send, publish, post and deliver; amateurs sit around and wonder, or worse, scratch their arse.
2. Educate yourself.
Think someone else is responsible for your education? Think again. And don’t fool yourself that being in school, in class, or in the seminar actually equals education. Education is incredibly active and it should be self directed in some capacity. Seek information. Knock down walls to get it.
3. Make your own rules.
There are a million paths to get to any single destination. And while it helps to know the rules that others have played by in the past–those you admire who have come there before you–don’t let those rules alone define your rules or your actions. Be respectful as you make your own rules, don’t be rude. But be prepared to chop your own path through the weeds and fend off the naysayers, because if you’re doing something worthwhile there will likely be resistance to your way.
4. Want to be a legend? Affect change.
5. Want to affect change? Get to work. See #1
Nothing–and I’ll say it again, but louder–NOTHING will spring from your creative self fully formed. Genius, clarity, vision–whatever you want to call it–will come in fragments at inopportune moments over days, weeks, months, years. Be ready to catch each one of the iterations and push it out of you. The summary of those iterations will aggregate into something special.
7. Look inside.
Understand that the best way to make something new and fresh is to look inside you. The answers are in here, not out there.
8. Don’t underestimate the fundamentals. Know your craft.
Vision and big-picture-thinking are important, but not at the expense of the fundamentals. You’ve got know the nuts and bolts of what your doing. Skip this item at your own risk.
9. Take a deep breath.
Life, work, art can be hard. Anxiety – not to be confused with the positive stress of deadlines and forced production schedules – is counter productive. So when shit is getting hairy, take a breath. Everything is going to be okay. When you re-center, see #1.
10. Take delight.
Your work should be fun. Not always fun like a birthday party fun, but fun like you’re doing the right thing sort of fun. Stimulating. Positive. Energizing. Take delight in what you do, and for that matter, what others do too. Celebrate successes, pop champagne or Diet Coke when you break through tough challenges. Stay up all night when the ideas are flowing, because you can. Enjoy the process, because from moment to moment, the process is reason for the season – it’s all you’ve got. If you don’t take delight, your career will be short, either by choice or by fate.
11. Seek out good people.
Think you’re on a solo journey? On the contrary. Making your work, your career, your life, will involve others taking to you and what you do. Therefore, make effort to know, connect, collaborate with, mentor under, the best people you can find. Screw that, the best people you can FATHOM. And once you identify them, seek them. Make an effort to cultivate those relationships and take those good people with you – figuratively and literally – on your journey. Good people tend to attract other good people. And so for similar reasons, it should go without saying, avoid jerks, d-bags, and haters. It’s hard to soar like an eagle when you run around with turkeys. Negative energy is like a black hole for creativity and inspiration. And remember, you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
12. Find some quiet.
Noise, stimulation, and adventure are good for creating the raw building blocks of creativity, but they suck for the most important part of creativity — the synthesis. Synthesis–the gluing together of your ideas–requires some sort of quiet, be it just a moment or bunch of moments. So carve out this time.
13. Help others.
When chasing success too many people play the ‘me’ game. It’s all about ‘me’. Well, contrary to what it might seem, success ain’t just about me. Most people who achieve success are concerned with helping others. Helping others cultivates understanding, humility, compassion, and your network – not to mention, a better world. So don’t just reach up and pull yourself there. Be sure to reach sideways and down too, as often as you can muster.
Thanks. Spread the word.