As someone who’s had careers in multiple spaces (personal development, entertainment, education), I know how hard it is to make a dream come true. Sometimes you wonder whether it’s ever going to happen and sometimes the dream comes true at an unexpected time. Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot to take with me on the way to my dreams. Here’s my advice to you:
1. It will be much harder and take much longer than you expect.
You might think you can pull something off in a couple years and you look up 11 years later, and you’re still chipping away it. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not talented or capable – it means that most overnight successes take 10 years or more. Success, for those charting their own courses, is a marathon, not a sprint.
2. Be grateful for the journey.
In the age of social media, it’s easy to look at another person’s Facebook page and wish your perfect life would hurry up and come. But really, most people are faking the funk online. There’s no such thing as a perfect life – just one with better problems. Besides that, your journey is unique to you. To rush it would be the equivalent of taking a pie out of the oven too soon. And you don’t want gooey pie, do you?
3. Time management will make or break you.
The people you most admire have the same number of hours in a day that you do. Success is not about finding more time – it’s about getting clear enough on what’s important to you that you make time. We make time for things that are important to us, and we make excuses for everything else. Arrange your life around what you say is important.
4. Discipline is the best kept success secret.
When you read the inspiring quotes on Twitter and the self-help books by the gurus, you hear about believing in yourself and hustling hard. You rarely hear about discipline and the importance of consistently showing up and doing what you need to do. I honestly believe that success is more a function of discipline and persistence than talent. Discipline is where you prove to yourself – and everyone else – whether you really want it.
5. You will suck. And if you keep going, you’ll get better.
There’s an amazing series of videos featuring Ira Glass discussing storytelling. Whether you write or not, I recommend it. One of his points is that when you start something (and sometimes long after), your taste is better than your performance. You know what great work looks like, and you’re aware that your work is not that great. He warns that many people quit when they realize their early work isn’t a masterpiece. You have to keep going. It gets better. You get better. You suck less. You become decent. Maybe you become great. If you love it, keep going.
6. Keep your inspiration close.
Going after your dreams is hard work. There are so many challenges deal with – time, money, detractors, obstacles, progress. You have to keep the thing that inspires you close. Visit with it often, not just when you’re having a tough day. The closer you keep it, the easier it is to stay motivated.
7. Move your body.
Exercise is a secret weapon for dreamers. Besides having endless health benefits, it’s good for the mind. The surge of endorphins feeds the creative machine as does the mental stamina necessary to get through a good workout. I do some form of exercise every day – even if it’s just the 7 minute workout (and they have iPhone and Android apps for it – yay!)
8. Surround yourself with the right people.
Every dreamer needs people who believe in what s/he does. This is bigger than networking and connections. This is about having people in your corner who see, understand, and support you in word and deed. There are plenty of folks who will offer lip service and smile in your face, but what you want are those who will show up for you and hold the space for you to step fully into your dream. This may mean flushing some people out of your life to make room for others. Be okay with that. Dream chasing requires sacrifice.
9. Your parents will never really get what you do.
To this day, I don’t think my parents know what I do. They know I’m not a hooker and that I don’t sell drugs. They know I do something having to do with media and that I run a company. That’s about it. But that’s enough. They’re wildly supportive and I appreciate it. Remember that the only people who really need to fully understand your dreams are you and the people you want to buy stuff from you. Everybody else will catch on later.
10. Ego is your worst enemy.
As you evolve, you want to pop your collar and enjoy whatever success you’ve had. You want respect, and you want to be treated well. You deserve those things, but you have to make ego assassination a daily practice. Ego is the easiest way to get drunk off your own Kool Aid and stop growing as a person. Confidence is good; conceit is bad.