At least once a week, someone tells me the “successful people myth.”
The names change, but the general story is always the same:
“Did you hear about Jimmy? He launched an online course/sold a business/raised rabbits in his backyard and made a ton of money. He’d only been doing it for like three weeks. Why didn’t we think to do that? It’s so easy!”
The result of that conversation is always the same, I feel like a huge loser. I have arms and legs just like Jimmy. I have access to the same Internet he has access to. Why didn’t I do that? I’m so dumb. There’s a huge pile of cash that everyone knows about except for me. I’m an idiot.
Maybe you don’t feel that way, but I promise you’ve heard the “successful people myth” too. It’s not a bad story, but there are three lies hidden in it.
Let’s kidney punch each one for a moment:
Lie 1: Success is easy.
When we talk about other people we always leave out the hard work they did to get there. We never see the early mornings and the late nights, especially in the age of the Internet. So many people are always telling me how easy passive income is. They describe the Internet as a faucet you turn on for cash. What I’ve learned though is that bad things are always easy, great things aren’t.
You could slap together some PDF with 10 ideas, come up with a crazy price tag for it and sell a few copies. That would be easy. That will be good enough, but will it be great? Will you save your money and hire a designer to make it look beautiful? Will you get it professionally edited? Will you wrestle with what the long-term costs are to constantly asking an online audience to buy stuff? Will you study your industry to make sure your message is unique and not just adding more static to an already over crowded conversation?
Those are just a few of the questions successful people work through constantly. The friends I know who do courses and passive income with excellence work extremely hard. You don’t get passive income without active work.
Lie 2: Success is fast.
Know how long it took other people to get successful? Usually about an hour. They had an idea, registered a domain and then did a Kickstarter that raised $10 million. Only that’s not even a little true. Success you get quickly tends to leave just as fast. Long term success, the kind that lasts for years, takes years to create.
That’s not failure, that’s foundation. If you want to build something that is going to last, you have to build a foundation. Piece by piece, action by action, you have to build it. The problem is that’s not sexy. So we post the final results of our years of hard work in a 5 second snapshot on Instagram. We see the book cover, but not the bleeding. We see the business opened, but not the boredom of paperwork. We see the goal reached, but not the grind invested. Fast success is often fake success. Take time to build things that matter.
Lie 3: Success always makes you tons of money.
It can. Success can lead to stacks on stacks on stacks. I hope it does for you, but don’t believe that it’s a foregone conclusion. I’ve had friends who launched Kickstarter campaigns and then were crushed that a tidal wave of money didn’t show up that next morning. I’ve had friends launch businesses and act surprised when Benjamins didn’t parachute into their pocket that next day.
I once launched a product that I thought would sell like crazy. I had big dollar signs in my eyes. We printed thousands and thousands of them. At my best estimate, about 85% didn’t sell. And it was the kind of product that was timely, so once we missed our sales window there was nothing to do but destroy it. Why didn’t the cash show up? I think I bought into the first two lies. I thought it would be easy and fast, which means I got lazy and entitled. (It wasn’t this awesome calendar, because we did print on demand!)
Those are the lies, but fortunately there is an antidote. It won’t get turned into an amazing image on Pinterest because it’s so mind numbingly simple, but here it is:
If you want to be successful, work hard.
If you want to build something meaningful, work hard.
If you want to drastically increase your chances of success, work hard.
Is hard work a guarantee that you’ll be successful? Nope. You don’t control the planet. But not working hard is a guarantee you won’t.
And if your dream is more difficult than the successful people myth promised it would be, keep working.
If it takes longer than the successful people myth promised it would take, keep trying.
If the money doesn’t show up like the successful people myth promised it would, keep trying.
Don’t let those three lies about success knock you off your game.
Success is possible, but if you want it to be probable, you’ve got to work hard.
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