Three Steps to Success!

In last week’s post I laid bare my own insecurities as a creative person pursuing success. I talked about how we (creatives) tend to define success as (1) having an audience, (2) getting applause and (3) achieving acclaim. But this week I’d like to disrupt these assumptions.

I believe there is a way to do our work, be fulfilled, and achieve success without an audience or applause!

Sound strange? Read on!

Enjoy the process

First of all, you have to do your work for the love of it. Whether you sing, play an instrument paint, write or draw, if you’re only doing it in order to get something—money, praise or fame—then you’d do better in sales. True creatives do their work because of a compulsion that transcends tangible rewards. If you get enjoyment from the very act of creation, whether people are around or not, then every time you sit down to practice your craft, you win!

Be your own audience.

When you’re in the audience you have a different perspective on the performance than if you’re performing. That perspective is important.  After going through the creation process, step back from what you’ve created and examine it as if it wasn’t made by you. The only way to do this is to give yourself some time. Walk away from it, forget about it (as best you can) and only return to it when you can do so with fresh eyes. If you do, you will likely find ways to make it better. You know how great you feel right after you’ve made something? Let that feeling fade—it’s infatuation and it can be misleading. By putting some distance between it and you, you are removing yourself from the emotion which is necessary for creation, but bad for revision.

Think like an athlete…kind of

Athletes are focused on winning and they’re success or failure is measured by how much better they are than their competitors, but for artists, being motivated by comparison is a death sentence! To measure your success by the standard of others in your field is to secure your sense of failure! Why? Because you will never be them! And there will always be someone who does it better, earns more awards or makes more money than you. Not only that, to measure my success by the standard of other writers is to constantly chase a moving target! There are too many writers in the world, and far too many standards of “good writing” against which to measure my own ability.

However, there is another characteristic of a true athlete that I do think is valuable to imitate. While training, athletes don’t look at their competitor’s achievements. They look at their own.  A runner trains to beat his/her own best time. Basketball players practice making more shots today than they did yesterday. Gymnasts challenge themselves to increasingly difficult moves—but the standard is theirs.

If you’ve enjoyed the process, then critiqued your work at a distance, you are in the best possible position to determine the next level to pursue. To do so without the pressure to best someone else’s best is to free yourself to achieve your own best!  As Chrystal Hurst says “run your race.” Focus more on improving your skills than on promoting them.

Those singers on American Idol didn’t spend enough time with the process. They took the cake from the oven too fast and it flopped! Or, to use a gardening metaphor, they failed to cultivate their craft.

I love what Lara Casey says:

“Cultivating an intentional life is…faith in action. It means planting dreams in faith, even when we don’t know exactly how those dreams will grow—or if they will grow at all. But the possibility is worth the planting”

Did you catch that? Dreams are worth planting whether they grow or not! How can this be? Because there is something to be gained from the process that has nothing to do with your audience and everything to do with you! How will you be changed by your own work? How will the effort and difficulties you face make you stronger? This is how you achieve success and accomplish your dreams. You do your work. Period.

“Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Proverbs 3:13-14)

 

Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Are You at Peace or in Pieces?

When I think about the story of Mary and her alabaster box, I am struck not only by her action, but also by her position. She is on the ground—in pieces–at Jesus’ feet–unlike Simon who sits pridefully at Jesus’ side. The contrast between these two is stark. As a religious leader, Simon assumes a position of entitlement. He serves alongside Jesus as His equal and has no sense of the lordship of Christ. Mary, on the other hand, is demeaned by the religious leaders and scorned by her community. No one sees her as worthy of any position except the gutter. Yet, it is because of her position of disadvantage that she is esteemed by the Savior. “Blessed are the meek,” the Bible says, “for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” Simon didn’t hunger or thirst. He was seated at the table! Mary was the uninvited guest, she had not been offered a plate.

Can you relate?

I know I can. I often feel like Mary as I pursue my dreams. Unlike others who are seated at the table, I’m on the ground in pieces! Struggling with writer’s block, daunted by writing challenges, uncertain how and unable to establish a platform. Like Mary, I’m not esteemed in this industry. Maybe I’m not scorned, but I’m certainly not visible!

But perhaps the lesson is that, rather than striving to sit at the table, I should, first, get down on the floor.  Rather than chasing fame and glory, I should first be content with service and support. While society may snub their noses at the “meek,” turning my intentions away from my own objectives and towards another’s turns society’s logic on its head! That’s how it works, you know? It’s not that we’re destined to live in the pit, but that taking this posture prepares us for the palace. Without first being humble–maybe even humiliated, we may not be able to handle the challenges of success. 

What encourages me is knowing that God sees. In fact, this story suggests that it is when I am the most vulnerable and the least able to help myself that he is able to do his greatest work!  Could my disadvantage be an advantage? Mary’s was. Simon felt no need for a savior, so he received what he came for. Mary emptied herself in the puddle of perfume at Jesus’ feet and left the banquet in peace.

What will this look like in your own life? Think about emptying yourself first, then watch God fill you beyond what you thought possible!

Happy Monday.

signaturemed

Quote by Nicole Reed.

Cover photo by Daria Litvinova on Unsplash

Mayhem Monday: No Need to Plan?

It’s New Year’s Eve–so, how did you fare?  How did you score on the scale of success this year? Did you rack up? Achieve big dreams in 2018? Or, as you tally up your points, do you find that, like me, some of your plans are still “loading”?

I don’t know what it is, but it seems to me that the more plans I make, the more those plans fall apart! I wonder if it’s better not to plan. Perhaps I should just fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens! But, ancient wisdom says “those who fail to plan, plan to fail.” As I flip through old notebooks and scribbled notes, I see great ideas that have fallen by the wayside.  I sigh as slips of paper slip off of my night stand, symbolic of dreams deferred.  Who can deny the rough realities, ideals that intersect with conflicting interests and desires that drag on but don’t deliver?  I have yet to discover the secret to seeing them through—how to push plans from ideation to three dimension. I get close, but no cigar…

Nicole Walters, entrepreneur

Or, at least, that’s been my mantra. Then a friend sent me a link to Nicole Walters talking about her new podcast. I love Nicole Walters. I’ve been following her off and on for a while now. Some call her “ScOprah”–the successful entrepreneur who quit her 6-figure corporate job live on Periscope and launched her own (now) 7-figure company. She’s a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you! She’s such an amazing, confident, fearless woman who doesn’t waste too much time planning. I mean, she plans, but she doesn’t. What I love about Nicole is that she’s successful because she doesn’t allow planning to keep her stuck in one place. She moves forward with her plans and lets God do the rest. And you know what? She’s found AMAZING success as a result.  Her story is not new, though. 

What I realize is that what God is doing in Nicole’s life He’s been doing for ages.  You see, He has this habit of showing up in ways that can’t be explained in human terms.  Throughout the Bible there are examples of Him demonstrating His power in just the opposite way and at just the opposite time than people expected. In Genesis, he gave Joseph a dream, then sent him into exile. In Exodus, the Hebrews endured oppression for 400 years only to be dragged into the desert by an 80 year old shepherd! During the time of the Judges, he chose a woman, rather than a king, to defeat the Canaanites and a boy, Samuel, to be his prophet! Over and over again God turned the plans the people had upside down, then did something completely unbelievable just to show them who was really in charge. Yet, in every situation, he also turned what looked like defeat into amazing success!

So, as I think about the many plans that I’ve begun, then abandoned, and the many ideas that I’ve been too afraid to pursue, I realize that it’s because I’ve been relying on my own abilities. I’ve been waiting until the perfect time, until I had the perfect resources, and until everything was perfect in my estimation. But I think I’ve been looking at it all wrong. The better question is what do I need to be doing, regardless of whether my planning is perfect?

Plans or no plans, 2019 may be the year to move ahead in faith and see what amazing thing God wants to show us that you and I could have never imagined!

What do you think?

Proverbs 19:21

Photo by LinkedIn Sales Navigator on Unsplash