The secret to success is working on the Right Thing


I did scan through the article. I didn’t see any part where she says that the ‘secret’ is to be born male, white, and rich. Especially rich.

/besides, what’s your definition of success?

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I certainly try not to ‘hate’, or cast shade on anyone’s idea of what the right path toward fulfillment is, but it is a rather personal thing. After years of school, related student debt, and bills to pay, I would have to throw away a lot of established things in order to follow this advice. I mean, sure, what’s “establishment” anyway, right? I could declare bankruptcy, tell my significant other that I can no longer support her as she works toward dream of being a full-time illustrator, and skip town to see if stand-up comedy or motivational speaking is my ‘right thing’, (but, and I think I’m finally vomiting up my point here), there’s a significant cost. And… I think that’s what this sort of advice doesn’t address.

It’s up to each one of us to determine the feasibility of such a thing, yes, and the author never claims to have the answers for Life, the Universe and Everything, but what I want to know is how I can somehow strike out in more easily digestible bits here and there without tearing down a lot of what I’ve spent 34 years installing. I desperately want to be ‘hip’ enough to follow my nose across the globe, but I have non-job-related responsibilities, man.


I’m a little cynical this morning, I admit. I need another cup of coffee. But this article strikes me as a lot like a TED talk - full of inspiring sounding words but ultimately not really all that informative or helpful. Okay, the secret to success is working on the right thing. But how do you know what’s the right thing before you do it? Or before you do the wrong thing for a long time, thinking it’s the right thing. In the author’s own story, she says she “fell in to” the right thing, and that you can’t really know what the right thing is, you just have to do something and “see how the world responds.” So ultimately the advice seems to be “Once you are successful, you’ll realize what the “right thing” is.” which is pretty useless advice.


How to achieve Creative Success:


The Right Thing is something that usually comes along after you’ve spent half your life doing something that wasn’t the Right Thing. My sister found it when she was 40 years old. She had also recorded music that went nowhere, and took a sculpture class at the community college as a break. She noticed that all the other students were watching her instead of the teacher. Presto! Right Thing. After several years of hard work, she has built a thriving school of sculpture.


I think the advice can be taken more generally. I think about this all the time at work. Is the company pursuing the right projects? Am I spending my hours on the right tasks? It’s not quitting and writing a great novel, but we can always move towards or away from success, however we define it.

But more directly to your point, yes, there’s a massive cost to upending your life to pursue some crazy dream. And the cost tends to increase as we get older. Sometimes you can write a great novel on your weekends, but often times to succeed you just have to embrace something 100%.

There’s a middle path where you work a job you can deal with for enough money to live on and just enjoy life. That’s the one most of us take. Or you can go for broke, quit accounting to pursue a career as a movie star. And usually you never make it, and either burn out or love the effort. And occasionally you do make it, and achieve acclaim and (maybe) riches. If you really want to go for it, go for it. If you like your life as it is, that’s already quite a bit of success.

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The list of people that worked steadily while doing creative work is long (Bukowski, Eric Hoffer, Harvey Pekar to name a few contemporary examples).

Read any of those magazine articles about employment and financial problems for some tale of a person that gets laid off and decides that this is the Big Chance To Pursue Their Dream, and within a year they have blown their retirement savings and are nearly homeless. The reader is left wondering “WTF were they thinking?”

Also, people do not consider that it can be pretty hard to be creative when they are being assaulted with levels of stress and anxiety they have never encountered before.

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You have just encapsulated ‘the fear’, as I see it.

But I think that a fear of doing everything badly, with no planning or foresight, sowing the seeds of one’s own disaster; is an excuse we use to mitigate our fear of actually committing to a different life.

It is possible to change your job to suit your life without abandoning work altogether.
Especially if you are dragging yourself through a 9-5 office hell and, when finally emerged back into your own life, find you are too exhausted, pissed off and just drained to make any meaningful contribution to your own endeavour.

I think you are the one who Got It, Polama. Lots of cynics in this thread who are right about what they are saying, but what they were saying is not what this article is about.

The writer is a person who gets asked how she succeeded as an artist and entrepreneur, and she’s doing her best to clarify that for others who are interested in that process. She’s not telling everybody to quit their day job and risk everything.

I also apply this to my own career trajectory. I’m in the sciences, so lots of formal education and bureaucracy is involved. Just because my dream isn’t (as) artistic in nature, doesn’t mean I can’t feel like I’m working towards the ‘right project.’

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You don’t know the meaning of fear until you commit to that different life. Up until that point, it’s just anxiety from procrastinating over a possible decision. But it’s when you make a decision that real terror becomes part of your life. And then you get to the point of saying, hey we might end up living in the car and that really will be entirely my fault. Or maybe I’ll live 10 more years instead of 35. And what about that mole - does it look malignant? Or should I get that broken filling repaired instead?

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No problem.
I don’t own a car. :cold_sweat:

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I learned all about that Fear when my 2-year-old kid was diagnosed with cancer. It was a few months after that, when 9-11 happened, that I took the plunge and quit my day job. Best decision I ever made.

My Right Thing? Go watch the Steve Wozniak video that’s on boingboing right now. He’s wearing my wristwatch.


Like many people, I have a passion and I have a career that pays well. My passion is not going to pay well, probably not, and so far has been a money suck.

But now I’m at a point where if I don’t figure out how to make some money at my passion I will risk living a life without doing the thing that really excites me. That’s a big risk too.

So for now I am shelling out a little more to work with a life coach that I found back when I was out of my day job work and he was assigned to me as part of my exit strategy.

It’s just amazing how many obstacles I throw in my own way. It is helpful to talk to someone who can clear the clutter away and say, “focus on this thing!!” instead of the five million ideas that pop into my mind.

Just found it notable that all this was about was creative=writing careers. A few commenters mentioned that they were involved in a different - disciplinary endeavour, alike myself. To Us, agreed: this essay is entirely useless.
Have A Nice Day.

This last statement is true. When I was laid off in 2008, it was a daily mental assault of trying to find work to make ends meet. I had plenty of time. Time wasn’t the issue. Maintaining my family was stressful, and there was so little energy left over for creativity. The stress of not knowing how to survive takes over and there is so little easygoingness left. This article is rather fanciful. I hope people realize that.

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“The Fear” was what pushed me towards the career I’m in now. I spent my practical year at university in Spain going between having minimum wage jobs where I had to travel 1.5 hours each way and having no work at all. I just about managed to work 8 of the 12 months away, which was enough to get credit for the year. I was expecting to save money for my final year, but I ended up having to get a loan to get through that year. This was in 2007 when the downturn hadn’t hit most of Europe yet, but the tourist industry was really starting to struggle where I was and every job in the area was indirectly dependent on it. Once I started applying for work in my final year, the crisis had hit the UK and it was a really bad time to be job hunting. I really wanted to work with languages, so I left my wife in England and moved to China for a year rather than take my chances with the job market in the UK. As it turned out, this gave me time to build up my experience as a translator outside of working time, so when I came back after four years (with my wife, who had joined me later), I had a mobile career that supported us for six months while she didn’t have any work. A British colleague in China who graduated at the same time as me waited almost a year before making the same choice, while my fear of rejection and unemployment meant that I was gone two weeks after graduation. I’m not free of any financial worry by any means, but under the more modest criteria of doing something that I find interesting, fits my lifestyle and allows me to live at a reasonable level, I am doing the Right Thing. (This isn’t rejecting the idea that there could be other Right Things in the future, or given alternative choices in the past, any more than there is one perfectly compatible person for you).

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You harnessed the fear and whipped those ponies over oceans!
My harness is, unfortunately, currently being weaved from the manes of several bolted horses.
It’s inspiring to hear this kind of story.
I feel like I need to take a first step with the proper planning and back ups. Instead of just dumping the regular job, I need to find a way to make the skills I have acquired through that work to help support me whilst I build a business. However, the ‘9-5 and nothing else’ ethos that permeates most jobs is not conducive to this approach.

Well I found the information in this post useful and actually quite relevant to my life. Thanks to Nikole!