Most people like to believe talent, hard work, and luck are among the determining factors of success. For a long time I thought you only needed any two of them to be successful.
But, actually, if you want to be successful, and it doesn’t matter if all you want is to become a great dancer or actor or writer, or whether you want to pick up pretty girls in bars, you just have to be willing to make a fool out of yourself.
Let me tell you why. Making a fool out of yourself is even worse than failing, because our freedom is ultimately limited by how much we care about what others think of us. For some, seeing their own failure reflected in the eyes of those around them is even worse than death.
Because we’re social creatures disgrace feels like the most terrible of punishments. No man is an island. For whatever reason, we want to belong, we want to find others just like us, and thus we are afraid of being rejected. Furthermore, we are afraid of what consequences our actions might bring.
Some try to play it safe. Their heads bowed, they try to survive for as long as possible. For them, life’s just the battle of staying alive until they die, and every day they wake up and look themselves in the mirror, that’s a day they’ve already given up on.
In order to succeed you have to be willing to fail, and I could leave it at that, go back to writing my stories, and you’d feel like you know something. Instead, I’m going to tell you what “being willing to fail” actually means: it’s one of the scariest things you’ll ever do in this life.
You know that really famous quote from Hemingway’s The Old Man and The Sea?
A man can be destroyed but not defeated.
I’ve always thought it to be exactly the opposite. A man can (and will) be defeated. Again and again. Painfully, mercilessly so at times. But he can never be destroyed.
Life’s all about failing, over and over again, and rising up every single time we fail. And it’s all right to be afraid. Fear is a natural response, but not understanding fear is not.
Dreams don’t come true, you have to make them come true, you have to start things, you have to finish them, you have to search and try and work really hard at it. No matter how afraid you are, no matter how easy it seems to just give up, you have to keep going.
And I’m not talking just about writing or art. No, this is about life, about love, about being the person you want to be.
We live in a strange world. You’ve got billions of people, and they’re all different, and they all want what they want, and they’re all fighting to get it. All these dreams, all living at once on the same planet.
At times it might seem like a good idea to wait. Just put your dreams on hold.
I’ve met so many people who know what’s that one thing they want most, and they do something else regardless. Apparently, they want to wait for the right time… some of them want to earn enough money by doing something else, then spend the rest of their lives doing that which they’re passionate about.
But it rarely works that way.
There is only one battle worth fighting: spend every second of your life searching for the spark that makes you feel alive. There’s no other fight quite like it. You fail, and it doesn’t matter. The entire world thinks you’re pathologically unstable, and it doesn’t matter. You receive 200 rejection letters from agents, you keep on writing. Reach for the stars and don’t whine when you fall on your ass.
Success comes to those who fight wars they believe in. With a million strangers at their side or all on their own, there’s nothing quite like going through life with your head held high.