Want to know what happens to people who spend their whole lives dreaming about fame and fortune, reading about others’ success and accomplishments, and following a who’s who of the influential elite in the hope that some of their magic will rub off them?
Not a whole lot. Dreaming, reading, and following will get you nowhere. The only way to achieve any of that stuff is by doing.
If you fit the above description, you’ve essentially got two options. You can keep doing what you’ve been doing and end up poor and bitter, or open your eyes, change your behavior, and get out and make something of yourself, while there’s still time.
Judging by the demographics of Entrepreneur’s audience (your average age is actually 45), at least half of you still have time to change your ways. Maybe this will be your wakeup call.
Look, it’s fine to want to be successful, but success is not a goal; it’s an outcome of a lifetime of hard work and perseverance. It comes from years of education and experience developing an expertise and learning how things work. It comes from pursuing opportunities, building relationships, making smart choices, being disciplined, and focusing on what matters. It comes from hard-fought wins and gut-wrenching losses.
If you’re starting to get the picture that it’s a long, hard road to achieve such a lofty outcome, then you’re getting closer to the truth. And the truth is that you’ll never become rich and famous by obsessing over becoming rich and famous. You’ll only get there by focusing on the here and now. You have to work on accomplishing one thing at time in real time.
Now I bet some of you are thinking that it’s good to have goals to shoot for and that learning what worked for others will help you get there. That may be true, but for goals to be effective, they have to be far more practical and specific than that. And none of the popular click-bait content will tell you what it really takes to make it big.
This is how success happens in the real world:
1. First, your parents teach you about work ethic, personal accountability, and making smart choices.
2. Then you go to school, get an education, and learn the basics about a field of study.
3. You go out and get a job (hopefully in your field but maybe not yet) and learn how the real world works, how companies work, how business works, and most of all, how people work.
4. Over time, you develop some expertise, build relationships, gain exposure to new opportunities, and figure out what you really enjoy doing, so that’s what you decide to focus on. Most of all, you learn from experience and others.
5. You face lots of hurdles – some you overcome while others trip you up. You learn lessons from gut-wrenching defeats and gain confidence from exciting victories. And through it all you work hard, compete, and stick with it.
6. If you make smart decisions and follow a path that’s right for you, in time, you’ll do some great work and achieve some big things. And one day you’ll look back, realize you did pretty well for yourself, and feel good about it. Then you’ll get back to work.
It doesn’t always work exactly like that – we all end up screwing up and maybe repeating a step or two – but for the most part, that’s what success looks like in the real world. In one form or another, this is what everyone who gets anywhere in life goes through to get there.
Notice that nowhere does it say anything about screwing around reading silly self-help-style books and blogs, posting dumb quotes on social media, following self-proclaimed “influencers,” or wasting precious time with popular fads about leadership, entrepreneurship, or the personal habits of millionaires.
Now, don’t get me wrong: We all have our moments, we all have our weaknesses, and we all make mistakes. Just don’t make it a habit. And, of course, we all need to have fun and have a life. But nowhere is it written that your work can’t also be fun. Nowhere does it say that your work can’t be a big part of what makes your life worth living.
We all have the potential for a fulfilling life, but only if we get out and live it. And the same goes for your work. So quit dreaming and start doing.