Recently, I read a comment on a popular blog that bothered me. The reader suggested that because the blogger was the leader of a large organization, he didn’t have to work hard to earn his audience. That it was somehow easier for him than the rest of us.
This type of talk gets on my nerves, because it’s pointless. So what if someone had more privileges or more opportunities than you did? It still doesn’t excuse you from doing what you’re called to do, from honing your craft and sharing your art with the world.
This type of thinking betrays an underlying worldview that I find disturbing. The fact is success looks different for everyone. But let’s call our objections and justifications what they really are: excuses to not be awesome.
Justifications for mediocrity
Every time you try to do something extraordinary, you bump into the status quo. You get resisted by a gatekeeper, telling you why “this will never work.”
Their reason for objecting? Because it never worked for them.
Or you run into some hard-working Joe who’s embittered by the success of others. Of course he’s going to shoot down your innovative idea or criticize your success. What else can he do?
The fact that you’re succeeding threatens his worldview — and the worldview of anyone who’s ever failed at anything.
The hard truth
But the reality is they’re right. All these people calling into question your awesomeness, saying that would never work for them — they’re right.
I don’t know why some people succeed when others do not, but it happens — every day. Some people get lucky or meet the right people or have a certain “it” factor that makes them more likable than others. They do the same thing others have failed at, and they kill it.
It’s a mystery, this thing called success, and it’s out of your control. But that doesn’t excuse you from doing the work.
How to be an outlier
Malcolm Gladwell talks about this phenomenon in his book, Outliers.
To a degree, Gladwell argues, your environment affects your success. He gives the example of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates and how they were able to build their empires because they grew up in a unique place at a unique time.
At first glance, it sounds kind of fatalistic: The successful people will be successful because they will be, so why bother aspiring to more than mediocrity? But that’s not the whole story.
Yes, your environment matters. But here’s the good news: In a world where connection is free, you can affect your context. You can change your surroundings.
Now more than ever, we have the opportunity to change our lives. This is actually a pretty scary thought.
The secret to my (but not your) success
There is no formula to being an outlier. What you need to succeed is not what someone else needs. The trick is to use what you have to your advantage. This is what Jobs did. It’s what Gates did. Even what Mother Teresa did.
You can worry about not having the opportunities that someone else had — better schooling, better relationships, more money — or you can get on with it.
It won’t be perfect, but it could be amazing. If you will stop looking for excuses and just get to work.
Gifts and chances
Everyone has gifts and chances. You can waste them or use them. You can squander what you have and miss your opportunity, or you can be grateful and seize the day.
This is up to you. No one can give you a platform. You will have to earn it through your own sweat and tears. This isn’t playing God or manipulating your destiny. It’s taking responsibility — being realistic about what’s holding you back and acknowledging the privileges you already have.
By the way, if you’re reading this on an amazing piece of technology you own, you have more wealth than two-thirds of the world’s population. So stop whining about your lack of opportunity and do something already. (Yeah, you should tweet that.)
What’s one way you’re looking for an excuse to not be awesome? Be honest. And share in the comments.
*Photo credit: halseike (Creative Commons)
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