“If you want to be a good writer, you are not going to become one by always going to the movies and eating bonbons. You have to sit down and write, which can be frustrating, and yet without that you would not get that good result.” ~Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Few, if any, of the most celebrated authors have plopped down and written an award-winning novel. Many wrote several ‘lesser than’ pieces, and most participated in workshops to help them improve their skills before they became the ‘overnight sensations’ they are often thought to be. Successful musicians, Olympians, CEOs, chefs, technology giants — we see the result of their hard work but often forget that they have worked hard. Archbishop Tutu and His Holiness the Dalai Lama have helped to co-author a book about finding joy. Their ability to find joy in situations out of their control has not been as easy as watching movies and eating bonbons, and their respective successes in life have come as the result of actions they might never have imagined themselves taking. Results require action.
How many times do we think we deserve greater joy or greater success? Do we get what we deserve? We cut corners, we leave work early, we don’t practice our instrument, and then we don’t get a promotion in our job or a better seat in the orchestra. Do we deserve what we get? In that case, it would seem the missing pay raise or promotion is appropriate, but what of the person who works hard, shows up early, and stays late? Getting less than you deserve is a difficult thing to accept, and it is unfair. Maybe success needs to be redefined and not connected to what someone else is giving or withholding. Success, like finding joy, seems to be an inside job.
I remember when I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book, The Outliers, that he referenced the fact that in order to be successful with some kind of talent, a person must put in 10,000 hours of work to find that sweet spot of success. If we’ve put in the 10,000 hours, we’ve gone the extra mile with folks, and we still find we haven’t achieved success, what do we do? The opinions of several writers has left me sure of a few things: I’m certain that the best way to begin is to first believe in our dream — you do have a dream in your heart, don’t you? Next, we must visualize our dream and share it with someone else. When I decided to quit smoking, it helped me to tell someone else my vision of being a non-smoker — it gave me a little accountability and made my dream seem more tangible. Lastly, we have to go from talking about it to doing it. What will you do to achieve success? (good moral choices, not undercutting someone else) Will you take a class to learn more about your trade? Will you spend a little time practicing the instrument or skill, even if you think you have already mastered it?
As I continue reading The Book of Joy, I realize how tied together success is with joy. I’ve been writing for a long time. I find great joy in my writing and in taking pictures. Maybe I’m not a nationally known and celebrated writer or photographer, but I believe I have found success. For me, success is not about making money (though, it would be a nice addition) but about finding joy in doing well what I love. Whatever it is you want to do or want to be, begin by naming your dream, sharing that dream, and doing the work that’s needed. If you just want to eat bonbons and watch movies, you’ll probably not gain a lot, except weight. Measure your desire to succeed against the joy you already feel. You might be closer to success than you think!