“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is to try just one more time.”

“Negative results are just what I want. They're just as valuable to me as positive results.”

—— Thomas Edison, inventor of the electric light bulb

When I hear quotes like this I am reminded of that old movie, “Miracle on 34th Street,” where a very young Natalie Wood says cynically to Mr. Gailey, “I know that one. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.”

Yeah, that’s how most people view mindless persistence toward a goal. I wanted to be a musician really bad when I was in high school, so I took up my guitar and started playing. I have an ear for music, but I soon learned that I had zero talent. My hands are small and I just couldn’t get round that instrument; my fingers were always fumbling around trying to find the right chord. Later on in life I wanted to learn to play the piano, so I took lessons for almost two years. I realized again that although I had lots of tunes in my head, I had no talent on the keyboard. I couldn’t take the notes in my head (or on the sheet music) and figure out where to put my fingers. Thomas Edison, if he were still alive, would tell me to keep trying. But I didn’t want to practice so hard when I knew I will never attain anything but mediocrity.

The first step to success is knowing what success is to you personally. My personal definition of success is writing something that makes me feel my own creative power. That is the most wonderful feeling, and when I write or blog I never do it unless I feel inspired.

“Wait a minute,” you say. “You never said anything about selling a lot of books or getting a lot of readers. Success is connecting with people and if you don’t do that you are a phony.”

That’s the standard definition of success as a writer: writing something interesting or inspiring enough to resonate with others. But the first step to doing that is resonating with yourself. The novels I write don’t sell much – mainly because I never promote them (I hate sales and marketing) – but I have a great time writing them! I don’t care about money, I have never cared about money. Success for me is about how I feel about what I do when I am doing it. I am an outlier, and have never been interested in a career (other than being a musician). So I started my own business to pay the bills and devoted my free time to researching and writing stuff that inspires me. That’s what success is for me.

“Everything you have said about yourself are just excuses for failure,” you say.

Frankly, I don’t give a shit about that. But that’s just me. What is success to you?

The primary key to personal success is finding out what inspires you, and doing that. And if you hit on something that resonates with people, you will make a lot of money. And if you don’t, who cares? For me, the important thing is staying inspired.

Inspiration leads to motivation.

Edison said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” Edison would never have succeeded in inventing the light bulb if he was not incredibly motivated. It’s motivation and loving what you do that allows you NOT to see obstacles. That, and a little persistence and self confidence.

Let’s say that Rachel is an aspiring comedian. Rachel gets a routine together and goes to the local standup, where she gets a few laughs, but mostly the audience thinks she is pretty boring. Her first gig is a dud.

Rachel thinks she is a crummy comedian, but let’s look a little deeper into what really happened.

She came out on stage all fired up and excited. She looked around at the audience and saw that most of the people were not paying much attention. She launched into her very best joke and it didn’t get a rousing laugh, so she concluded that she isn’t that funny. Then she just went through the motions during the rest of her performance.

Rachel let the audience response destroy her personal joy for standup, so she didn’t stay inspired throughout her routine. Is it any wonder the audience was flat?

I remember an old comedian named Red Skelton back in the 1960s (I am an old fogey). This guy was the funniest person I have ever seen on stage. But if you actually listened to his jokes, many of them weren’t that funny. What Red did was to laugh at his own jokes. Red’s laugh was so infectious that it made the audience start laughing. Then the next joke came, and Red would laugh some more. Soon the audience had tears rolling down their faces.

Red’s jokes were funny to HIM, and that was enough. For me, his jokes themselves were just a side note. I just wanted to hear Red laugh.

You know how it is in a group when someone says something and others pick up on it – soon everyone is engaged and laughing and giggling. It’s a group vibe that starts with ONE person who says something he or she thinks is entertaining. Red Skelton understood that.

Once you connect with your own creative process, you begin to feel a sense of eagerness, of excitement, and of joy. It does not matter a jot what you do!

I know a woman who likes to quilt. She has, simply by following her desire, created a successful business by creating and selling artistic quilts, as well as conducting classes on quilting. This woman does not think about things like the economy, or ‘what if I fail,’ or ‘what if people won’t like my quilts.’ She quilts because she likes to quilt, and it gradually built up into a business.

“Yes,” you might say, “but Denise is an artist! I like to quilt too, but no one will look at my stuff.” Well, this is the sort of attitude that causes personal failure. Personal success has absolutely nothing to do with anyone else. I wonder what would happen if you keep quilting because you like to quilt? The only thing that matters is how YOU respond to what you are doing. No one ever knows how others will respond, but their response is IRRELEVANT. Let’s just say that if you are inspired, others will pick up on your inspiration. Will they then buy your book or your DVD? Who the hell cares?

The only thing that can hold you back from becoming inspired is your own fear of unworthiness. That’s what stopped our friend Rachel during her standup.

Look around at the successful people in your life. In each and every case the most self–expressed persons are the happiest ones. And they are just as abundant as suits them. The unhappy ones are the ones scrambling and struggling for a buck, worried about how others will respond to them, trying to get rich or famous from a feeling of lack.

The person who is self–expressed and inspired will succeed. What do you think?


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