It was yet another dull grey cloudy morning. The previous night’s down pour had calmly receded into a slight drizzle. Allan lay motionless in his bed, staring at the streams of rain droplets sliding down the glass window sash. It was six in the morning but even the deafening sound of his alarm clock couldn’t remove him from bed. He had always made it a routine to wake up at six in the morning and write a few pages of his book. Only this time, he had neither the zeal nor the enthusiasm to get up and work on his book. It had been four and a half years since he had started writing, all in which time none of his books had been taken up by any publishing company.
Fifty-four months later, he didn’t even have the guts to call himself a writer, fifty-four months later, none of his friends had read any of his works. Sure most of his close family and friends encouraged him and nudged him to follow his passion, however, with the passing time, most had started to doubt his venture, like as if his self-doubt wasn’t enough. The previous evening, he had met a publisher at a conference. He had mailed this man all his pieces but it turns out, he hadn’t read any of them. The publisher couldn’t even remember his name. Fifty-four months later, he was virtually invisible. The notion that he had wasted all those months of his precious years trying to build a vision, a dream, a name for himself all in vain was nerve wrecking and dispiriting at the very least. To give up now and call it quits would be to admit that he wasted all that time, to continue in that direction would be wasting even more of his years.
The cold breeze that squeezed through the cracks of his worn down single roomed apartment sent a chilling sensation straight to his bones. The stench from the dirty dishes across the room was nauseating, his life had hit an ultimate low. What was the point of going on, his work meant nothing? What started as a relentless pursuit of a passion slowly depleted into a depressing straggle for a dream that now seemed farfetched and unattainable.
When looking back at the lives of creatives, the visionaries who pursued their passions, most focus on their victories, and their struggles soon forgotten. People only see the times when they finally make a break through and start winning. The stories of their past struggles remain untold or at best hinted upon but very quickly forgotten. The cold mornings when one could give anything for a few minutes cuddled in a warm duvet, the rejects and slummed doors, the late nights of working on a craft you’re not sure anyone will ever see. The self-doubt, insecurity, fear of failure and humiliation. Truth is, the ones that pursued their passions and made it big went through trials most will never know of. Moments when it seemed that the only logical step was to call it quits, cut your losses and move on, moments when they fell into a ditch so deep they didn’t see a way out.
The journey of a dreamer is a tough one. The beginning is easy, you’re excited about your new goals and aspirations. Even your efforts at this time can yield a lot of attention and encouragement. You are all excited about being an aspiring artist, creative, athlete or pursuing your dream career. You may even make a few sales then. Progress is tremendous. However, what comes next is a test of commitment and will. Anyone who has ever started a gym or jogging routine knows this. The first weeks at a gym are exciting, motivation filled and empowering. Gym weight gains increase, fitness goes up and you’re fully committed to your routine. But when the excitement wears off, so does the dopamine. That is why the next few weeks are a drag. Suddenly you don’t feel like going, your progress plateaus and all your efforts seem vain. Just like that, when it comes to chasing a passion, a craft, a career those are the times when you don’t see any progress for even the greatest amount of effort.
In his book, ‘outliers’, Malcom Gladwell writes about the ten-thousand-hour rule, the minimum amount of time of dedicated practice it takes to become a pro at a craft. That translates to about ten years of three hours a day, every day without rest. That is how long and how much dedicated time it takes to be extraordinary. Tech gurus, pro athletes, people who have made it big in either business or their careers, dedicated a minimum of those hours to their craft and when the opportunity came, they were ready to jump on the wagon of success.
These people knew that the secret was to remain patient and consistent even when the times got rough. It was to show up even when it got cold, even when they didn’t see any progress. To show up even when their efforts went unnoticed or un appreciated and keep winning in the dark.
It’s the private victory that matters the most, the battles you fight when no one is watching, the races you run when no one is cheering.
The sad reality is that most people give up too soon, they give up when they are almost at the shore, they give up when their prize is an arm’s stretch away. The final moments are even the most challenging, moments when you are almost at your break through, those are the moments when the tides get rougher, those are the moments self-doubt and temptation sets in. Those are the moments that call for the ability to summon the slightest ounce of will and mental strength and just go on. In such moments the turbulence means you’re inches away from the holy grail, the hardened rock means you’re just a few strikes away from your treasure and the adversity means you’re a hair’s breadth away from your moment of triumph.
“The danger is greatest when the finish line is in sight. At this point, Resistance knows we ‘re about to beat it. It hits the panic button. It marshals one last assault and slams us with everything it’s got.” Steven Pressfield, in his book, ‘the war of art’.
By the resistance, he means self-doubt, procrastination, fear.
The book ‘outliers’ by Malcom Gladwell documents the lives of the most extraordinary personalities in our generation and previous generations. It’s no doubt that luck plays a role when it comes to success, however for all the successful people in that book, the luck came when they were ready. It found them equipped with the knowledge skills and expertise required to take up their prizes. The computer revolution found bill gates, Steve jobs and other Silicon Valley gurus with years of knowledge skills and expertise about computers, e-commerce revolution found Jeff Bezos and Jack Ma with years of education and entrepreneurship in internet sales. These personalities knew that they had to remain consistent through not only their triumphs but also their pit falls so that when their break through opportunities came knocking on the door, they were ready to receive them.
Walking through the highway of success, opportunity is the bus that will pick you up and drive you to your destination. When it will pick you up is unknown but your duty is to have the bus fare ready when it comes hooting. The bus fare is hours of study and practice, knowledge, skills and expertise.