Contrary to what you might be inclined to believe about this photograph, it was taken in 1999, when Jeff Bezos was already worth around 9 billion dollars. Yet he worked from that office, drove around in a Honda, and had a terrible sense of fashion.
Today’s richest man was working from headquarters located on the same street as a pawn shop, a heroin-needle exchange, and a “porno parlor.” His office, the badly stained carpet, the desk, made out of a door propped up on two-by-fours, all give the impression of the kind of hopelessness that people often encounter whenever they start something new.
Success is not easy. Overnight success is so statistically improbable that we might as well think it doesn’t even exist.
The struggle is real. Just imagine in what kind of conditions Bezos was working when he first started his company, if this was what his office looked like when running what had grown into a 30 billion dollar company.
The same way Elon Musk had to borrow money to pay rent in the early days of SpaceX, all successful people had to deny themselves pleasure and comfort in order to bring their dreams to life.
There’s no way around it, I’m afraid.
And there are certain aspects of success that rarely get talked about. We romanticize success to the point that it feels like a walk in the park. You do what you love, always a smile on your face…
Here are ten harsh truths about success that no one ever talks about.
1. You’ll be invisible for a long time
“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.” — Bill Bradley
When I first started this blog, nobody would read my posts. I’d be lucky to get six or seven views. And I put a lot of time and effort into my words. Tried to write the best damn article every single time I sat at my desk.
Yet, it felt as if my efforts went unnoticed.
If you want success, you need to keep at it mercilessly, because it’s typical to get little to no attention at all in the first few months.
2. You’ll make a lot of mistakes
“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” — Oscar Wilde
This is one of the aspects that people often neglect, mostly out of fear. They are afraid of failure, and lie to themselves that they already have the best strategy possible.
That’s rarely the case.
There are so many aspects whenever trying something new. Just think of all the things that matter when it comes to blogging, just from the aspect of a blog post:
- The headline. Even if you have a great headline, only about 20% of those who read it will also read the rest of your post. So you need to make it as brilliant as possible.
- Your introduction. You need to open your posts like a boss, otherwise no one will care to read past your first paragraphs.
- The rest of the damn thing.
- Photographs, videos, all that jazz.
- The ending.
You’ll be traveling the wrong path for quite some time.
I did not understand how any of this worked back in 2012. I learned by making mistakes, by trying different things. Writing about the things I cared about.
3. There will be haters. Maybe even blood.
“There will always be a few people who just want to knock you down or are jealous or just want to be horrible for the sake of it. I don’t know what drives someone to be nasty.” — Geri Halliwell
Let me put it this way: if you plan on disrupting the status quo with what you’re doing, there will be haters. If you play it too safe, there will be those who criticize you for not having the testicular fortitude to say what you really mean.
As they say, if you stand for nothing, you’ll fall for everything.
It’s so important to believe in yourself, in your dream, in your ability to learn, grow, overcome obstacles. Because if you don’t, no one else will.
4. Rejection stings like a motherf#cker.
“Everybody said, “Follow your heart”. I did, it got broken” ― Agatha Christie
Reaching out to people for help, guidance, donations, or investments will often yield no response whatsoever. Your pleas for help will often fall on deaf ears.
Most people won’t see your vision, won’t believe in it.
Because it’s your dream. Because if they could see it, they’d work on it as well.
A lot of the great writers of our time have been rejected countless times. And you’d think that editors are good at figuring out what books might become hits or not.
No one writes a brilliant first draft, and it seems that no one ever gets his first novel accepted by the first agent they submit too.
Your first blog post won’t go viral. Your first YouTube video won’t have a million views.
The first time you ask for help, it’s probably going to be a no.
It’s just how things go.
It’s very frustrating, and it’s easy to give up. The ones who succeed, are the ones who never, ever lose heart. They keep knocking on one door after another with the same enthusiasm.
5. Those closest to you (probably) won’t understand.
“If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” — Ken Robinson
When I told my mother I wanted to be a writer, she didn’t understand why I couldn’t just go have a normal job like everyone else.
There were quite a few arguments, and even a family intervention of sorts, as if I was hooked on drugs and had to be sent to a rehabilitation center or something. I don’t know. I kept explaining, they weren’t listening.
My friends and family rarely ever read my novels, stories, or blog posts. Few even understand why it is that I do. Fewer still care.
It’s not fun to have your parents not understand what your dream is all about; to argue with them because they are annoyed by the path you chose to take, especially when you know what you’re about, and what your passion is.
People will often break your heart by telling you to be realistic. To play it safe. Don’t cause too much trouble. Don’t dream too big, don’t jump too high.
I’m sorry, but it’s not the fall that breaks most people. It’s staying on the ground, dreaming of soaring through the skies until they break their own hearts.
6. It’s a lonely road.
“Success is as ice cold and lonely as the North Pole.” — Vicki Baum
If it weren’t enough that most people won’t support your dream, you’ll also have to learn to say no to most of what they want you to do.
I spend a lot of time having to tell friends and family that I do not have time to go out. I cannot hang out with them, because I have to work. That’s how it is.
And, yes, it is difficult to do that, and you’ll piss some people off, you’ll lose friends, you’ll ruin relationships. That’s how it is.
There are a lot of things you have to let go in order to pursue your dreams.
7. You’ll have to give up comfort.
“If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it” – Berton Braley
I used to work sixteen hours a day. The most I spent without even going out of the house was two straight weeks. I sleep five to six hours a day most times. A hundred hour work week feels like being on vacation. Yeah, those I never take.
I wrote stories and posts on my phone at parties, I answered e-mails on New Years Eve.
I spent 72 hours working on a script.
I gave up the comfort of having a stable income. I gave up on sitting on the couch, chilling with my buddies, watching awful TV shows.
It’s not glamorous, I know, but there’s no way around it. Trust me.
When I first started earning money from this blog and my books, I’d usually work hard, get the $$$, then spend a few weeks going out, having fun, buying stuff. Then, it was back to working hard. Every time I did this, it got a little bit harder, a little bit tougher to get back in the game.
8. You’ll struggle financially. A lot.
“If you’re broke, you don’t want to rap about being broke; you gonna rap about hustling and getting that bread.” — Juicy J
I didn’t earn a single dime from writing for the first eight years. The first six months of blogging, I barely managed to sell 10-20 copies of my books. Something like that.
I had to survive on $20 a week for quite a few years. Even in a country as Romania, that’s not enough to feel like you’re actually human.
9. It never ends
“All the so-called “secrets of success” will not work unless you do.” — Jaymin Shah
In case it’s not clear, I write every single day. I do not count the words I write, because that’s like counting girlfriends. It’s something you do to impress yourself.
I know that I write at least ten thousand words a day. Not only on this blog, but also on irevuo.
Before my laptop died on me, I’d manage 12 posts a day just on irevuo.
That’s not it, of course. Writing stories, novels, all sorts of books that I plan to release.
How much can one man do?
That’s always the answer. More.
You can always do more than you did the day before.
10. You’ll have to ask for help
“We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone.” — Ronald Reagan
Believe me, I’d love to just write and post stuff, and release books. Life would be easier that way. I hate having to ask for help, to sell products, to ask for donations.
But it is what it is.
Bonus: Failure will be your best friend
“We are all failures — at least the best of us are.” — J.M. Barrie
I have failed over and over again. Big failures, small failures. I quit on irevuo about five times in the past six years. I worked for three weeks on a digital magazine that didn’t receive the kind of attention I desired.
Books that never sell more than a few copies, posts that never receive a comment.
These are some of the harsh truths about success. It’s not the kind of thing dreamers envision when they think about the world they want to create, but it is how it is.
The road to success is paved with anger, bitterness, being told “no” over and over again, failure, petty frustrations, the endless grind, more failure, the mind-numbing, graceless task of becoming great, even more failure, pain, all forming a river of blood, sweat, and tears, and then having to swim across it.