I read a great little blog about the paradox of motivation by Colleen Doran and feel you should check out her patreon page. Colleen is a gifted illustrator and I am eager to see her finish A Distant Soil someday. So a quick thank you to her before we begin.
So a fair warning: this may initially come across like a self help article. It’s not. But it will start that way.
I’ve been called an idealist my whole life. Many friends have called my aspirations unrealistic, even if they are rooting for me. Still, some of them have expressed the idea of me becoming what I want to become as an artist as unrealistic.
I have issues with the word realistic. This goes back to my school days. Hell, it goes even with teachers and writers. Teachers told me that I should have realistic goals. Even writers tell me that I shouldn’t set my hopes and dreams on being the writer I wanted to be. Not everyone can be Robert Jordan or Issac Asimov or Ray Bradbury.
I ignored that. I was and am still convinced I was headed to bigger and better things. I’ve had the world open up to me in strange ways. I was an apprentice to a writer I looked up to, I’ve met and been blessed to chat with some of the most wonderful, engaging, endearing people I’ve been privileged to chat with. They have made me better just being in their proximity.
I haven’t hit the heights I wanted to (more on that down below) but I’ve had a lot of amazing things happen chasing my dreams. I’ve seen and gone down roads others don’t always want to.
When I came back to Calgary, that realism word had its ugly head come back. I had a number of friends tell me the same line over and over again. “You can have anything you want and be anything you want. What a load of crap.”
The number of people who have told me this above quote is staggering. They forgot one key part of the quote though. The unspoken part. Ready?
“…if you’re good enough.”
It’s never said, but it’s always there. You can make a million dollars IF you have a degree. You can get that dream job IF you don’t have a criminal record. You can own that Mercedes Benz IF…
What is good enough? Is it the number of degrees you have? Is it the pay check you take home at the end of the week? Is it some other tangible that can be quantified in some way, shape or form?
I have thought long and hard about this, and concluded that there is nothing I can do to measure this thing called goodness. Good is relative. Good is whatever you wish it to be. You could be good, IF you believe yourself to be.
This is one of my favorite quotes.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
But there is a flip side. Success isn’t guaranteed. Period. Even if you believe in yourself, even if you do the right things, make all the right decisions, there is not one sure way to insure that you will get what you worked for. Nothing is certain in this life. No matter what kind of self help or belief you have, there is always a chance that things will not work out and that you will never see the results you are hoping for.
Yet, without that belief in yourself, you have no shot of achieving anything. That’s the paradox. You only have a certainty in failing. It’s the easiest thing in the world to do. All you have to do is believe you will not achieve it.
You won’t. I promise.
But on the flip side, you may not get success anyway. Or at the very least, the success you are craving. I know that writing wise, hell, people may not ever buy my books. Artists never have it easy. As talented and magical and wondrous the worlds inside each and every one of us are, it is not always appreciated. We live in a world that would rather exploit such things than reward them. It’s easy to question your own worth in a world that doesn’t always seem to recognize it.
You can’t control the result. That’s just the way it is. It will rain if God wills it. There is no control. If you’re suffering through sickness, poverty, famine, it’s not your fault. There may be things you are doing to exacerbate it, but ending up in bad situations isn’t anything more than a moment in time. Blaming yourself for it isn’t the answer.
We don’t always get what we want, but we always get what we need. Last month I hosted my second ever live podcast. In it, my sister interviewed me. After showing off her prowess with her art skills by beating me in a drawing contest blindfolded, I then ended up sounding like a goldfish. Yet not a ton of people were there. In fact it was the same number of people that were there for the cyclone podcast. I did all I knew how to do to get people to come there. I made mistakes, as people did not quite know what a live podcast was and what it had to do with a book. That all said, I put a lot of time, effort and energy, not to mention cake into it.
I didn’t get the crowd, but I do have another chance. I have two more live podcasts in the year to come. One in June, and another in August. And who knows for the future? I’m not opposed to doing more. Making them profitable is the next challenge there. That said, they are a hoot to do.
I didn’t get what I wanted, but doors opened anyway. That’s not a bad thing.
Looking at the self help stuff out there, from Napolean Hill to Tony Robbins, I can see why a lot of people see it as garbage. Just because they made themselves, doesn’t mean you are going to. But if they say that, than what’s the appeal of self help. I mean, if you’re going to fail anyway, why bother, right?
I think what self help actually is is life coaching. Self help doesn’t guarantee success. But there is a process to learning how to not beat yourself. Teams that play seasons in their sports have the chance to teach themselves behaviors. If they practice good habits, and maintain chemistry and unity, even though they lose games, they win far more often. Self help is like that with people. There may be no guarantees on the final result, but there are ways to insure you don’t cheat yourself from the opportunities in front of you.
That’s the real secret I think. Everyone loses at some point. The Yankees lose, our gigs don’t go the way we plan them to go. You name it. Things happen. You can be consistent the whole way through and do the things you know how to do. You can keep an open mind to the possibilities of what can be done. Finally, take advantage of the opportunities that come your way. Because they show up when you least expect them too. Why not you right?
That’s the hard work. Hope is hard. Hope comes with pain. Disappointments are harder to deal with. You care more, want more, and go out to do more.
In order to even have a chance with success, you have to be willing to take chances, make mistakes and fail. That is not an easy path.
The question you must ask yourself is do you believe you are good enough? Are you willing to bet on yourself, even though it may not work out anyway?
Are you good enough?