Over the last few years I’ve been fortunate to interview some interesting, outrageous, and successful people. Whether they practiced medicine, started their own company, or acted in Hollywood, I noticed that their advice had common themes. If you’ve ever read success-oriented books or YouTubed commencement speeches, they all have similar principles. You’ve got “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill (1937), Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (1989), and Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford (2005). These took place at least a decade apart, and still, their messages never centered on a specific industry, but rather universal laws that have stood the test of time. Some are little more cut and dry than others, but generally, they’re the same content in different packaging. This isn’t because they’re unoriginal, it’s because they are different people who internalized the principles differently, and therefore prove they are not exclusive to anyone or any discipline.
Yet, many of us still believe that the advice of wise, intelligent people is not applicable because of our circumstances. They don’t get it. We get caught up in what we can’t do and convince ourselves that while those speeches are inspiring, they “don’t apply to me.” Somehow, accepting the negative things in life is easier than telling yourself you deserve better. You feel like you’re stuck majoring in something you don’t even like, headed for a job you’re going to hate, and yet in our generation, people are making money just by Instagramming. Realistically, you could read all those books, watch all those videos, attend as many leadership programs as you want, and none of them could work. It’s a matter of figuring out what you think is stopping you from being “applicable.” There’s a reason why personal development is a never-ending process, why you can’t “do it all” yourself, and why your life makes your ambition so hard to accomplish: It’s because you’re human.
Just because you’ve figured out your insecurity doesn’t mean that three years later you won’t develop a new one that you’ll have to overcome all over again, bringing a whole new set of issues. The people in your inner circle who support you may not always be there. They might be on their own path that you don’t fit into, which you’ll have to deal with. And your ambition? There won’t always be a spark to keep the fire burning. Some days you’ll be over it and some days you’ll panic at the thought of it being a tragic mistake. But not all hope is lost, I promise. What I’m trying to get at is that being successful takes a lot of flexibility in handling your emotions, decisions, and curiosity. Even people who love their jobs still deal with challenges, because that comes with the territory.
At the end of the day, the only thing that keeps people going is that they believe in the decisions they’ve made. Burning out is much less likely to happen when you don’t feel like you’re forced into the nuances of your day. But if where you are right now is far from what you daydream about, don’t feel like you lost time. You are here on purpose. It’s not by accident that you’re failing class, or are going through something difficult, or have nothing exciting coming up. It’s exactly where you’re supposed to be, and you can always start somewhere. There is a person out there who wishes they were you, while you’re wishing to be someone else.
So the next time you pick up one of those books about success, or read another blog, or watch another catchy motivational video someone shared on Facebook, ask yourself what’s stopping you from taking their advice. Deciding to change one small part of your life at a time is not as inspiring as it sounds, but it probably seemed just as annoying to Steve Jobs when he was starting out, too. So what’s stopping you?