I saw this quote in a tweet the other day and I like the thought behind it. There seems to be a lack of understanding in terms of time and work involved in a successful life. The highlight reel that social media is twists our view of the world, and some people do there best to make it look like they have a life of luxury and getting to that level of success is easy.
Not only is this flat out deceitful, but it is also completely wrong. Let me spell it out for you:
There is no such thing as an overnight success
Hard work is always necessary
Multiple failures should be expected, and will happen. It’s PART of the process.
Every stage of your progress is necessary, perfect in its own way, and a building block for the next stage.
The idea that someone can be an overnight success is way off base. Even those who have had only “15 minutes of fame” didn’t likely get there in one shot. Whether it is a baseball player who comes up big in a crucial game or the social media influencer who had a piece of content blow up, both of these people did years of toiling in the shadows before that golden moment came along. The work they did previously was the necessary prep work to capitalizing on that golden moment and executing. That baseball player has likely played the game since Little League, and therefore had been exposed to similar situations before, and subsequently was prepared. The Instagram influencer probably had hundreds of posts and different types of content in effort to gain the desired attention. The “overnight success” part is mislabeled…it is “discovery after years of hard work”.
Speaking of hard work, there is no easy path to fame, success, or whatever your end goal is without a LOT of hard work. You have to develop the skills, the knowledge and the art of what you are doing, and the only way to do this is to work. Whether an athletic endeavor or a business project or a personal challenge, you have to dig your heels in and grind. I spent thousands of hours in preparation off court, on court and in competition before the wins I had at the highest level of the game. My racquetball career wasn’t filled with marquee upsets or wins at the Pro level, but there were a few that made it all worth while. I was a dominant player as a amateur in my home state, but stepping up to the highest level of play certainly changed that. But it was worth it in the end, the losses, the pain and suffering, the travel, the expense, and all the rest was worth it for those few shining moments where everything I did previously paid off.
I had many more losses than wins at the Pro level; some of it was due to the structure of the events at that time Once I reached a ranking of 32 in the world, I no longer had to play qualifying matches to get into the main draw. So in stead of winning two matches and then playing a high ranked Pro, I was jumping into the main draw against someone ranked above me, and this typically resulted in a one-and-done tournament for me. However, some of this was my own doing. By that I mean that I moved up in the level of competition too soon, before I was really prepared. I was trying to be an overnight success and taking the shortest route to the top, but that did not work. I did a complete revamp of my game AFTER turning Pro and seeing that my game was not ready for that level of competition. I learned this lesson the hard way.
Here is something I wish I would have learned sooner. As the old wisdom says:
A rose is a rose at each stage of its growth. It does not feel bad for itself as a seedling,
or jealous of its neighbors who are already in bloom.
I didn’t have a good perspective on this. I wanted to be a rose…right now. By “rose” I mean I wanted to be a Pro level player. I knew it took work, but I got a late start, didn’t have some of the advantages others did, and always felt rushed to achieve as much as possible as soon as possible. I wasn’t happy with where I was, and it literally almost destroyed me. I am sure that I would have enjoyed this journey much more if I had been at least a little patient with myself and understood that this is a process, not a destination. I had peers on the tour that loved every minute of it, and were very disappointed when their career came to an end. For me, I burned out and quit and never wanted to go back to it. Hardly the sign of someone who enjoyed the journey…
So, circling back to the title of this blog, the art of growing is to focus on the right set of problems. You need to have a good sense of self awareness, and determine what you really want. Not what your parents want for you, not what you think you should want, but what you really want for your life. This tweet used the word “problem” in the broadest sense, and maybe challenge would have been a better choice. School is a challenge, relationships are a challenge, work is a challenge. If you choose wisely in these three categories you will set yourself up for a happy and fulfilling life. If you struggle with, for example, choosing a partner who brings more drama to life than any other attribute, you are setting yourself up for a rough road. This may be a challenge of the wrong kind, and no amount of effort will ever overcome that. This is a waste of time, effort and probably money as well. As long as life (hopefully) is, it is too short for this stuff…cut bait and start over.
The key to a good life is to have the RIGHT amount of struggle, a challenge that can be overcome at some point. Problem-solving, creativity and other skills are mental muscles and need to be exercised regularly lest they become dormant. Be sure to focus your efforts and allocate the energy you have to the things that A. make sense B. are productive and C. can be overcome with the right amount of effort. All of these should result in being better off than where you started. Growth and improvement takes time, so be sure to give yourself a break and be patient as you navigate these uncharted waters. As I said before, I did a lousy job of this, and it cost me dearly at times. Learn from my errors and save yourself the heartache.