There have been a few conversations recently about success and motivation. How do we motivate ourselves to succeed? What do we do when something doesn’t go the way we expected?
There’s a bit of a car crash happening at the moment in Goodreads:
To cut a long story short, this is yet another example of the Author’s Big Mistake. An author has poured their heart and soul into writing a book. They think it’s the best book since that bloke Homer wrote about his holidays. And no I don’t mean the one in the Simpsons.
A reviewer then gives his book one star. At this point the author should man up, shut up and cover up. He’s not the first person to get a one star review and he certainly won’t be the last. And reading the first few paragraphs of his book, I have to say that the reviewer has a point. The writing is overblown, immature and purple.
But our author can’t let it go. He writes a response to the review which is part pleading and part indignant. How dare you give me a bad review! How very dare you! Do you know how many hours I spent writing that book? Do you want to ruin me, mentally, emotionally and financially? Look, I’ve been crying … see here, real tears.
And that my friends, is the classic Author’s Big Mistake. We should never ever quibble with a negative review. If readers don’t like what we have written, then they don’t like it. Pure and simple.
The reading community have reacted to this by giving his book a slew of one star reviews. That’s a little unfortunate, but quite understandable.
There have also been a few conversations recently about motivation. I would say that more than half of conversations started by aspiring writers have a basis in motivation. They are saying “I want to write, but I don’t know if I am good enough”.
Or sometimes: “I thought I could write, but I’ve just had a bad review and it has knocked my confidence.” Which is what has happened to our Big Mistake author friend.
Or C looking for inspiration to get off her backside and make her dreams into reality. I did say I would write a blog for you.
So I thought I would give you Once’s patented recipe for success. How to excel at absolutely everything. Guaranteed.
But first we need one of my trademark Star Wars analogies. There’s a weird thing that happens between Star Wars V and VI. Luke goes to Degobah to learn the ways of the Force from Yoda. He learns that his friends are in trouble, so he decides to fly off to save them. Yoda objects saying that he is not ready. He has to complete his training. Luke ignores him and goes to save his friends.
Then in episode VI Luke goes back to Yoda. And this time Yoda tells him that his training was complete all along. In his usual syntax muddling way, this speech we hear:
No more training, do you require. Already know you that which you need.
What? You made Luke fly all the way from Degobah to Bespin and then back again for no purpose? In an X-wing spaceship with no toilet?
Has his training finished or hasn’t it?
Before the fanboys jump in with a homebrew explanation, let’s move on. Yoda’s advice (eventually) is what we need “Already know you that which you need.”
And that is damn good advice. We spend our life looking for hidden secrets, arcane formulas, mystic doohickeys. When all the time the truth is staring us right in the face. With a few exceptions, every person who has ever been successful at anything has followed the same path.
Step one – decide what you want to achieve. Don’t flit from idea to idea. This week I want to be a writer. Last week I wanted to be a porn star. A rock god. A business tycoon.
That way madness lies. Pick one goal and commit to it.
Step two – get off your arse and make it happen. If you want to be a writer, then pick up a pen or a computer and write. Don’t wait for an ideal moment to start. That ideal moment was yesterday. The second best starting point is today. The absolute worst is tomorrow, because tomorrow never comes.
Step three – learn. The first thing that you produce will not be very good. That’s okay. Try again. And again. Find out where you went wrong. Ask people for advice. Look on the internet. Join societies. Treat one star reviews as a useful feedback. Make your second book better than your first.
A formula one pit crew can change all four tyres on a racing car in under three seconds. The record is less than two seconds. How can they possibly do this?
They do it by constantly looking for tiny incremental improvements in every area. They might save a few thousandths of a second by redesigning the wheel nuts. Another few thousandths by studying videos of themselves. And so on.
Whenever we want to be good at something we need to be looking for constant improvements. Collecting small plusses.
Step four – repeat, repeat, repeat. There will be bumps in the road. There will be one star reviews and dark days when nothing seems to work. That’s when the quitters quit and the determined keep on going.
What’s that? You’re feeling a little shortchanged? I promised you the secret of achieving anything and that’s all I have to give you? You already knew all this, didn’t you?
Yup. That’s it. As Yoda said: “Already know you that which you need.”
If you do want a secret, how about this one:
“We waste so much of our lives looking for short cuts instead of walking the straightest path.”
Find a goal. Do it. Learn. Repeat.
It truly is that simple.