Two truths and a…truth.
Anyone who tells you that succeeding in life is easy is either selling something or has set the bar for success so incredibly low that anyone with a pulse has better than a punchers chance at achieving it. While it’s true that success looks drastically different for everyone, there are some general guidelines that we use as a society to gauge it. Not all these ground rules will or should apply to you individually, and so it is important that you set your own standards for success. Below, I would like to expand on 3 truths I believe are crucial if you are going to be successful in your journey through life.
1. Perception is not reality
Too often in life, we use comparison as a unit of measure when it clearly shouldn’t be. The assumption is that if we see someone with relatively similar education and skills living a more successful life than we are, we are doing something wrong or have failed. This could not be further from the truth. For one, there is no way of knowing every detail of that persons personal life, or the sacrifices they have made unbeknownst to you to get to the place or position they are in. Secondly, how much of their perceived success is the embellishment of social media bias (that is to say, only showing people the pictures of their trip to pick your destination, but leaving out the crippling debt that they are now in). It’s the modern day equivalent of cleaning your house to spotless perfection before having guests over, knowing good and well you don’t live like that. Then, as soon as your guests leave, the closet door guarding all of the contents you crammed in it bursts open spilling in to the room. Knowing the truth that everyone has their own struggles that may not always be obvious to the observer will help you to keep your own situation in perspective.
2. Manage expectations
Save for a few prodigy’s around the world, no one picks up a skill or hobby and is instantly a top tier professional. There is a process inherent in the learning of a new skill that directly effects the end result. In the Army we called this the crawl-walk-run method, and it was highly effective. It was effective because it allowed the new recruits to build on the knowledge they learned at the start of training and gradually increase in skill and proficiency. Understanding your own limitations is vital to your overall success. If you pick up golf as hobby, and expect to be tour ready by the end of summer, you are going to be sorely disappointed. Golf doesn’t work that way, and neither will anything else. Be honest with yourself about your skill level and aptitude for learning, and you will be able to set more realistic and achievable goals.
3. Forget the failure
There are few things more frustrating than attempting something that you have been practicing for some time, only to have it end in failure. I enjoy watching speed runs on YouTube. The idea is that someone takes a video game, or specific stage of a particular game, and attempts to complete it in record time. Some of the records held are incomprehensible to me. The fact they the people attempting these records have memorized and choreographed every single input on the controller, for an entire game, is beyond belief. I have even seen some where they complete entire games blindfolded. But for every single video that is posted, there are hundreds upon thousands of failed attempts that will never be seen in most cases. When they fail, they don’t shut the game off and decide to learn needle point. No. They regroup, hit reset, and start over. The drive they have to be the best (fastest) is greater than their desire to quit in frustration. Being able to concisely assess your failure, learn what you can from it, and move on is a valuable skill to have. Understanding that failure is a part of any success story is one of the greatest truths you can hold on to.
In closing, don’t be discouraged if the success you seek seems out of reach. There is no secret to being successful. It is the continued effort in the face of adversity that will set you apart. Knowing this, you can move forward, confident that your mistakes will only serve as tools in your journey to grow and learn. What truths have you discovered in your own journey? I would love to hear some of them, and maybe they will help someone else reading this to recenter their focus, and redouble their efforts.