It blows my mind how many people are content to merely…exist. They sit back and look to their heroes and think, “They are so cool. If only I could be like them. Oh well, where did I put that box of Oreos?”
Maybe ambition is like a sickness you contract from other carriers–like zombies…zombies of awesomeness. My message is this: Do something–anything, other than rotting in excuses and justifications for your mediocrity.
Whatever it is you decide to do, don’t expect to be anywhere near mastery until you’ve been at it for five years. There are exceptions, but for most of us mere-mortals the 10,000 hours of practice rule applies.
This is what most people do when learning a new skill: They start, realize it’s hard, and quit. That’s why people who achieve difficult goals gain respect and power (unless it’s for teaching guys how to pick up chicks. Sometimes I feel like the vampire Lestat: loved and hated).
So what sort of person is able to focus single-mindedly on mastering a skill for five years? What sort of characteristics would you need to adapt in order to be a high achiever? You want to be:
Self-Aware: You understand the difference between stimulus and response. You know that just because someone has an opinion, that doesn’t change the fact that you’re learning through personal experience. You understand what your ego is and how it functions, and you choose when or when not to listen to it. You understand that your personality, and habits are malleable. You have to choice to control your reactions and are not driven by emotions.
Creative: You think outside the box. Instead of resigning to quit because a task seems too difficult, you explore possible alternatives. You don’t look for approval but instead execute ideas and then learn from the result. You don’t stick to bound rules; you create your own style, your own brand. You are able to generate and evaluate various concepts without a guide and without seeking approval. You have the mind of an explorer, or inventor, or painter. You are an artist.
Focused: When you pick a task you stick to it until it’s complete. Instead of relaxing into absorber mode, you produce. When you feel tired or bored, you step up and work harder. You understand that every minute spent honing your craft brings you that much closer to mastery. You understand that time is a limited commodity and life is short, so why waste it? Instead of watching t.v. you practice. Instead of quitting, you push forward.
Positive: You don’t focus on the negative. You find the light in the darkness. When bad things happen, you spin it, flip it. You believe that life will give you the experience you need. When your mind falls into negativity you let go and pull yourself up. When others throw negativity bombs your way–it flow through you. You smile and laugh often. You practice the exercises that make you happy (and not just the entertainment) and do them often.
Independent: You don’t need the approval of others; of your friends, your family, or society to dictate your path or lifestyle choices. You trust that whether you make the right or wrong choices, you will deal with the consequences on your own terms.
Open-Minded: You accept the teachings and criticisms of others without retort. You are willing to try new experiences, new ways of being. You aren’t set in your ways, rigid or blocked by walls of ignorance. You seek out new experiences with open arms and accept that everything you know might be wrong.
Pro-Active: Instead of going with the flow of your society, you make conscious decisions based off your own value system and act upon them. You don’t wait for “The right time” to take action. When you have an idea for a project, you start it. When something needs to be done, you don’t procrastinate—you do it now (like when you need to take a hangover poop, it just can’t wait).
Closer: You don’t start projects and drop them before their finished. You see them through. When things get tough, you stick to it. You finish. You close—even when the odds aren’t in your favor and success seems impossible, you go for a close. If you’re in last place, you finish last, dragging your broken body over the finish line for the last three spectators–because this will make you stronger. No quitting allowed,; it just reinforces the habit of quitting.
Dedicated: You know your work will pay off, and the payoff will be great. You are disciplined. You make sacrifices necessary to achieve your goals. You have willpower and develop the habits necessary to make your dream a reality. All your friends are going to off to smoke heroin? Sorry, you’re working on your art. Maybe next time. Dedicated.