When you hear or see the word ‘success’, what comes to mind? Money? A thriving career? A happy family? We all define success differently and there are all different kinds of ways to get to where you want to go. I believe when it comes to succeeding at the work we do in life (whether paid or not) there are 5 things that a can spell the difference between overall success and truly losing at adulting.
In this post, I’m going to frame these 5 things in terms of being a writer because that’s my work but these are principles that apply no matter what kind of work you do!
1. In order to be a writer, you have to be a reader.
A writer who doesn’t read, is like a cook who doesn’t eat or a musician who doesn’t listen to music. If you want to be a writer, you’ve got to read. And not just read but read well. Don’t just read one kind of book, read broadly and outside of your comfort zone. Allow yourself to mature, learn and grow as a reader and that’s one of the ways you’ll mature, learn, and grow as a writer. Get to know style, structure, and voice. Stretch your brain with subjects that you may not be naturally in to. Challenge yourself with topics that you’ve always been interested in but didn’t think you were ‘smart’ enough to understand. This takes some work but it’s worth it.
As a book nerd, I obviously think that reading is important not matter who you are. However, the principle of a writer needing to be a reader also holds true when it comes to any life work. Submerge yourself in those things that will enhance your talents. The more you engage in your talents and passions, the better you understand what it means to be whatever you want to be. No matter what kind of work you do, don’t be satisfied to know just what your job requires. Familiarize yourself with the context in which you work. Read books, watch videos, take a class, have conversations, ask questions of people who are further along than you are. It will help you do your job better, you’ll become a better conversationalist and you’ll set yourself up for upward mobility in your organization or industry. Just remember: cooks eat, musicians listen to music, and writer’s read. What do you do?
2. In order to be a writer, you have to write.
So, if you’re going to be a writer, you have to write. Well, DUUUUHHH!
Sometimes it’s not that simple. Writing is hard and there are times when it’s more simple not to write. Writers write even when it’s hard and they don’t feel like it. Just because you’ve got a passion for something, doesn’t mean it’s going to come easily. Having a passion for something means that regardless of how you may feel at any given time, you keep doing it. Feelings are useful gauges but they’re fickle.
Same goes for anything else in life. Successful people do. They don’t wait around until they feel like it. If it’s important, if it’s a priority, if it will move the needle, they make a plan and do it. And when that plan doesn’t work, they go back to the drawing board, troubleshoot the issues, make a new plan and go back out there and do it again. They push through feelings, they face challenges head on and they make it happen.
If you want to succeed at something, you have to do it. You don’t wait around for ideal circumstances, you don’t wait until you know better, you just do it. And you do it when it’s hard and you don’t want to. My husband once told me that this is what separates the boys from the men – the ability to keep doing something when it’s hard or you feel like it’s not worth it anymore. The stuff of success is doing the hard things no matter what.
Note: I have to add a caveat – this doesn’t mean that you do things thoughtlessly or recklessly, without consideration. You do have to pray and plan and be careful. But sometimes, we sit around and daydream about what we could be doing, despairing that we’ll never get a chance to do this, or be good enough to do that. Sometimes opportunity doesn’t knock, you have to find it yourself. Sometimes, you have to set the table that no one is sitting at yet. Sometimes you have to start the conversation or offer a new solution to the problem. There’s a difference between waiting on God’s direction and sitting on something that He’s giving you the opportunity to pursue
3. In order to be a writer, you have to be vulnerable.
Writing is putting your heart on the page and hoping no one steps on it or rips it to shreds. It takes a lot of nerve to be transparent with your thoughts and opinions. And it takes a lot of guts to be okay when someone doesn’t like what you have to say. A writer has to care more about writing and what she’s trying to communicate and less about what people might think about it. The ability to be that vulnerable is tough but it’s necessary.
There are times in life when you just have to be vulnerable in order to get anywhere. Asking someone out, going on a job interview, striking up a conversation with someone who probably wouldn’t normally talk to you, giving up something valuable for the sake of someone else, sticking by a friend even when it’s difficult because they matter to you. That first step, that next move – these are moments of vulnerability cause you don’t know what’s going to happen and your feelings may take a hit as a result of your actions. But risking your pride and your feelings is a part of maturing and growing as a human being. There’s no growth where there’s no risk and where there’s no risk, there’s no success. Care enough about your people and your goals to take chances and be vulnerable.
4. In order to be a writer, you have to be willing to listen.
I’m much better at opening my mouth than keeping it shut. As a word lover, I’m too quick to say words because I feel like my point of view is so valuable and I must share it. And while offering your two cents because you want to be helpful isn’t a bad thing, being slow to truly listen is a bad thing. Listening is an important quality in a writer. And not just when it’s your turn to listen in a conversation, but just in general. Be aware of what’s going on around you. Don’t be so preoccupied with your life that you miss what’s going on in the lives of those you love or work or come in contact with. You never know, it could spark your next project or start an interesting conversation.
The same holds true in life. Sometimes you really just don’t have to talk. If you’re like me, you have multiple tabs open in your brain and comments on the ready. But just because you have something to say, doesn’t mean you have to say it. Practice listening. Wait for people to finish their sentence before you respond and think about what you’re going to say (my parents just heard the hallelujah chorus in their heads and have no idea why!). Maybe this isn’t an issue for you, but for all y’all fast talkers out there, be slow to speak and quick to listen. Believe me, people will appreciate it!
5. In order to be a writer, you have to love it.
A writer doesn’t write for the sake of being a writer, a writer writes because she can’t help but write.
In order to be a success in any area of your life, you have to want it enough. If you you’re going to invest your time and effort doing something, make sure it truly means something to you. This doesn’t mean quitting your day job, abandoning your responsibilities, or ditching your commitments simply because you don’t love them. Life comes in seasons and everyone has to pay their dues or do things simply as the means to an end. Whatever you’re working towards, love it enough to use those things that you may not love, or even like, as learning opportunities and stepping stones along the way.
Success, like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder. One may look at the family who drives an old van and always seems to be struggling financially as not successful until they see the joy of the children, the contentment on the wife’s face and the spring in the husband’s step – that is priceless.
You’re not here to please everybody, just One Person. When God looks at you, you want to be sure He likes what He sees you spending your life on. He created you with a specific purpose in mind. That purpose is often not something big and dramatic, it’s often the small, mundane, mediocre things that the world isn’t impressed with. Serving in your local church, raising children to love Jesus, spending quality time with family, doing another load of laundry, stewarding your resources well. Success is deciding to do whatever it is that God placed you on this earth to do no matter how hard it is or how much it costs you.
I don’t know what challenges you’re facing this week, but I do know one thing – God’s got your back. He has a beautiful, unique purpose for your life, better than anything you could ever hope for or dream of. Don’t chase the world’s standard of success. Embrace God’s great plan for your life and work diligently to become all that He created you to be!