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Sign up for notifications on my new book, Almost Already, coming out the end of July!
I recently told my friend Steffan, “I’m thinking about making videos out of my blogs. I think it can be a new medium for generating content.”
He said, “That’d be cool! However, I would only do that if it’s something you really wanted to do. If someone can’t spend three minutes reading your blog, I don’t think making a video will get them to the content either. And you’ll just spend more time on something you don’t actually want to be doing.”
He was right. And he didn’t charge me a therapist fee. Sucker.
Maybe one day I’ll make videos because it’ll be a good use of my time, but right now, it’d just be one more thing I’m trying to do.
I often struggle with feeling like I haven’t done enough. If something I’ve done isn’t massively successful (and nothing I’ve ever done has been) then I wonder if I worked hard enough or if I did something wrong.
I don’t want to be someone who half-attempted something. I want to go all out and know that I gave it my all. But not everything is meant to be a smash success.
I get leery of advice gurus who act like anything you think of can be successful if you work hard enough. It’s just not true.
I’ve been thinking about this formula recently:
Success = (Hard Work) + (Luck)
There are a lot of hard working people with great ideas and great content who we will never hear about. And conversely, there are a lot of people who got lucky. The Snuggie was not a groundbreaking idea. It was a robe you put on backwards. However, it was dumb enough to get attention.
And I am dumb enough to own one.
I’m not sure how accurate my success formula is, but it makes sense to me. However, if you’re a Christian, then it should probably be more like this:
Success = (Hard work) + (God’s leading) – (What you’ve wrongly defined as success)
There are a lot of “successful” people who are successful in one area, and total failures in another. I remember hearing a speaker in college talk about his success. He worked 12-14 hour days and said that’s what it takes to be successful. He also said he had been divorced three times. That’s what success has cost him.
I don’t want that kind of success if it means losing what I truly count as success.
So for me, I need to do what I like doing, which is writing, and then trust God to do what he wants with it. I don’t need to think up awesome new ideas so God can know I’m working hard. That is my insecurity and pride telling me I haven’t done enough.
The boy who had the five loaves and two fish didn’t wake up and say, “How much do I need to bring for Jesus to multiply this for 5,000 people?” He just brought what he had.
Take the little you have, work hard on it, and then put it in the hands of Jesus. If it’s what God wants you to be doing, and you give it all you have, then I think that’s success.
Last year I released my first book. I didn’t have a publisher or agency helping me, so I was kind of making it up as I went. I botched the grand release of it, and the people who wanted to buy the book couldn’t actually buy it at first. Since then I’ve found typos and poor word choices throughout the pages. Maybe one day it’ll be a priceless first edition, but for now it’s just annoying.
I made a lot of mistakes in my first book. But can you really call them mistakes if you didn’t know what you were doing? Can you demand perfection of an imperfect person in an imperfect process?
We’re humans, not computers. We’re accident prone. It’s why auto insurance is a requirement. There is no way to avoid errors and accidents. You’ll find errors in whatever you attempt, and others will, too.
Random strangers on the internet can’t wait to take you down. They can’t wait to hop on to whatever you’re trying to do and attack it. I’ve never understood this mentality, but some people are so miserable and insecure that they want to make others as pitiful as they are.
Nothing is ever good enough if you scrutinize it for long enough.
I was struck this week by four simple words of Jesus from Matthew 20:26. He was speaking about how people will use their power to grind down others, and then he said, “Not so with you.” He went on to explain that he did not come to be served, but to serve.
Some people may jump at the chance to belittle someone or rip them apart. Some people are always focussed on everything in their life that is wrong. They are never encouraging. Not so with you.
Some people are so hard on themselves that they sit paralyzed in fear. Not so with you.
It’s easy to find the bad; the wise hunt down the good. The weak tear others down; the strong build up.
A little encouragement can go a long way, and the best part is, the more you believe in others, the more you’ll start to see the good in yourself. I dare you to speak some words of life this week and see what a difference it can make.
Hunt down the good.
In my last post I talked about how I decided to quit writing for a night. Am I dramatic? Maybe a little. But if you doing anything creative, there has to be at least a little bit of Jenna Maroney in you.
I mentioned how my wife helped snap me out of it. When I hit my “What’s the point?” moment and decided to quit, I went to bed thinking I’d wake up with a sense of freedom. It was the opposite and I felt worse.
Every morning I start my day with a cup of coffee at my desk. When I sat down I saw Brittany had written me a note saying, Please don’t give up. It means something.
I went and told her thank you, and we talked about it all a bit more. She told me it was just a moment of doubt and it’d pass, and what I am doing is important. I spent some time reading the Bible and praying and realized I had believed a lie. She was right.
Lies aren’t always blatantly obvious. Sometimes they sound like good ideas. But when you hear God’s truth, you realize how stupid the lies are.
With the internet, it’s never been easier to hear criticism or to compare yourself to others, and it happens quickly. There are so many voices fighting for a chance to speak to us that sometimes you can’t help but absorb some lies.
Lies about where you should be by now. Lies about who you should be by now. Lies about what you’re worth.
We have to have people in our lives who share our dreams, who believe when we can’t believe, and who hold us in prayer. And people who know when to kick our butts with some truth.
The Bible talks about David and his mighty men. Not to be confused with the Merry Men . . . or the Mighty Ducks. These were men who didn’t leave David’s side. Brothers who were dedicated to the promise David had been given and willing to go to battle with him and fight for him. I’m willing to bet the King David we all know wouldn’t have been who he was if not for these mighty men.
Who are you surrounding yourself with? Do you feel uplifted after a weekend with your friends or drained and empty? Do you have voices you trust to speak truth into your life? Do you let them speak truth into your life?
Choose the voices you listen to wisely. And when they disagree with you, consider who is saying it, why they would be saying it, and what it even could be costing them.
I’m thankful I have people in my life who speak truth to me when I want to believe a lie. We’re in this thing together, Mighty Ducks.
I recently began work on my second book, but this past week I decided to quit. Not just quit the book, but quit my dreams and aspirations.
You may be saying, “But Tones, didn’t you just write about not being afraid to fail?” Yes. That’s the saddest part of all.
After a little bit of reflection, I decided, “What was the point?” I looked back on the past 14 years of my life and all the different creative endeavors I’ve tried. I considered how none of them have ever really taken off. Radio and TV shows. Stand up comedy. Songwriting. Blog writing. Book writing. Speaking. Nothing has ever really kept going for me.
I started to feel like the same trend was going to happen with my writing. And then I realized it was already happening.
In my sudden depression, I gave up on the spot. I decided, “It’s just not worth the effort. I’m better off taking that time and devoting it elsewhere.”
I’m no stranger to spontaneous doubt explosions in my life, but I can normally shake them off. I talked to my wife Brittany about it, and she tried to dissuade me of my decision, but she was unsuccessful. I went to bed concluding I was done.
I thought I’d wake up free from the burden of feeling like I needed to write and produce something. Instead I woke up feeling pretty empty. Like I’d lost a friend.
My wife helped me snap back (and I’ll tell you about that in my next post). I realized I had taken my eyes off of why I was doing what I am doing.
Will I ever end up on the NY Times Bestseller list? The odds are not in my favor. But that hadn’t ever been my writing goal. I write because I feel like I am supposed to, and I write because I like it. I don’t love every moment of laboring over my writing, but I like typing out my thoughts while listening to the film scores of Hans Zimmer. I like that one day my grandchildren will be able to know me in a way I never knew my grandparents.
Being a bestselling author is a lofty goal that very few writers achieve. It’s fine to have aspirations, but if we hold ourselves to goals like that, we will always feel like quitting. And if we hit those goals, they still won’t be enough.
Ambition is a wild animal. It’s hard to tame it and keep it under control.
If you don’t have any ambition, you’re boring. If you have too much, you’re obsessed with an idol. Balance is the challenge.
Success can have many definitions. Perhaps one of them should be, “The ability to keep going even when you’ve been unsuccessful.”
I can’t believe this happened 10 years ago.
During the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant, Miss South Carolina had one of the biggest public speaking failures of all time. This video went viral faster than I eat through a Dilly Bar at Dairy Queen.
The poor girl had never been on live television and she blanked pretty hard. Live TV is unforgiving and society can be cruel. I’ll admit I can’t watch it and not laugh.
But do you know what happened to Miss South Carolina?
Neither do I. I don’t even know her name. Everyone moved on. So much has happened since 2007. We’ve had the Charlie Sheen meltdown, the Kardashians inexplicably became famous, and 29 Transformers movies (and counting). Horrible things happen nonstop in our culture.
We can be so afraid of failure affecting the rest of our lives and ruining our identity. But luckily, we can brush off most failures.
When is the last time you’ve bombed out? As a comedian, I’ve died on stage a few times. It’s terrible and embarrassing, but you survive. Failure is good. Failure means you’re trying something new. Maybe a few of your friends will rag you about it in your future, and that’ll help keep you humble, but mostly everyone will forget about it but you.
What is your fear of failure keeping you from trying?
Here’s a fear of mine: I’m trying to branch out into some speaking opportunities. I’m terrified to ask people to recommend me, or pick me to come speak at their event. If you know anyone looking, send them my way.
Even just typing that right now sucks and makes me afraid and I’m embarrassed and I want to hit the delete key but I’m going to keep going and not even use punctuation so I don’t stop while I process this new endeavor therapeutically through the power of the keyboard.
I did it. Don’t let fear of failure stop you.
What are you trying? Let me know! Send me an email or tweet. We’re in this together.
Most importantly, if you learn something, failure really isn’t failure. It’s education.