Success rarely comes easy. In anything. So when I hear someone say, “I wish I was like (fill in the blank)” or “(Name) has it so easy / good,” I often roll my eyes. Usually, these folks don’t understand all the time, energy, heartache, sacrifice, money, anxiety, fear and education that were planted in order to (hopefully) encourage success to bud and eventually bloom. Just ask Don Henley and (the late) Glenn Frey of The Eagles band.
Over the weekend, I watched “The History of the Eagles” on TV. I’d seen it before, but it had been years. I guess it was rebroadcast because of Glenn Frey’s recent passing. Four lessons stood out to me as I soaked in this 3.5-hour documentary. While Henley and Frey were obviously talking about the music industry, these lessons absolutely apply to reaching a higher level in any business or area of life.
Lesson 1: Everybody Starts at the Bottom
These mega rock stars had it hard in the beginning. Like every other band, it took years of moving, planning, calculating and learning before anything paid off. Baby steps were taken. Mistakes were made. Sometimes everything was scrapped and they started over from the beginning.
That’s how it is for everyone. Are you starting a new venture? Trying to learn a new skill? You might as well count on having bumps and bruises in the beginning. People who are doing something new — anything new — will have setbacks. Understanding this from the start can reduce a lot of stress because, when issues come up, you’ll know this is just part of the process.
Lesson 2: Learn to Defeat Self-Doubt
Don Henley talked about how unsure The Eagles’ band members were of themselves in the early years. They felt unqualified to play on the same level as other musicians and had fears of failure. Let me tell you this: Self-doubt is extremely common at every level. There are few people in this world who have accomplished something big who have not at least had temporary battles with “impostor syndrome.” Just ask Valerie Young, author of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women.
Academy Award–winning actress Jodi Foster said, “[It was] the same way when I walked on the campus at Yale. I thought everybody would find out, and they’d take the Oscar back. They’d come to my house, knocking on the door, ‘Excuse me, we meant to give that to someone else. That was going to Meryl Streep.’ ”
Speaking of Meryl Streep, this woman who has won more Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations than anyone EVER said, “Why would anyone want to see me again in a movie? And I don’t know how to act anyway, so why am I doing this?”
It’s not just creative people or women. Even popular athletes suffer from self-doubt, says rugby legend Darren Lockyer. “Every time I go to a game I always have that fear of losing, or a sense of failure,” he told AAP before retiring in 2011.
You have something to offer. When defeating thoughts pop into your mind, think back on past successes and refocus your efforts toward success, not failure.
Lesson 3: Sacrifice Is Required to Succeed
Glenn Frey gave an account of him and his roommate living in a horrible apartment above singer Jackson Browne (who describes his tiny “apartment” as a cave with a stove). At this point, Frey could play piano and sing, but he couldn’t write songs (something he badly wanted to do). Knowing there had to be some sort of process, he began to search for ways to learn this art. Frey went on to describe a typical morning in their building (paraphrasing).
“Even though we’d been up all night playing in bars, every morning about 9 a.m. I’d hear Jackson’s kettle whistle going off. Then he’d jump on the piano and begin to play the first verse of whatever song he was working on. This time it was Doctor, My Eyes.
“He’d play a few chords and work out the lyrics of the first verse. I bet he played it 20 times or more until he got it just the way he wanted it. Then he’d start on the chorus; over and over and over until it was just the way he wanted it. Then the kettle would go off again. More coffee and it was back to the piano to finish the song. Banging out notes and lyrics until he’d found the right story and the right melody to complete the song.”
Staying up all night playing in clubs to make a few bucks, then getting up early to devote yourself to whatever your goal is … that’s sacrifice. That’s what it takes to do anything of importance.
When I started my company, Marketing Words, back in 1999, I began part time. I’d get up at 5:30 a.m. and work for a couple of hours before heading off to my day job. I’d take projects with me and leave them in my car so that when I went to lunch I could work on them. Then I’d come home, cook dinner, do laundry or whatever else had to be done, and hit the computer to work on my own biz some more.
Those days were rough! From the time I woke up until I flopped onto my bed at night accounted for a 16-hour day (on average) about six days a week. It had to be done if I was going to meet my goal and accomplish the things I’d set out to do. I struggled for about 18 months before I could leave the office job I had and go it on my own. Now, 17 years later, I’ve got what I wanted and so much more!
Short-term pain for long-term gain!
Lesson 4: Improvement Is a Never-Ending Process
If you want to be good at something (making money on Amazon, launching and growing your own e-comm business, improving conversions, learning to play piano … anything), you have to commit yourself to constant growth.
Don Henley of The Eagles stated, “We wanted to get better as guitar players and performers and we worked hard on it.” This was not at the beginning of their careers. I’m sure it was true then also, but he made his comment well after they had reached global acclaim.
Success isn’t that elusive. However, retaining what you’ve worked for can be if you don’t continue to seek out ways to better yourself.
Whatever you’re doing, go to conferences, buy training courses, hire coaches, read books, attend webinars. Work self-improvement into your weekly or monthly schedule. It’s all too easy to watch what you’ve gained slowly slip away because you decided good enough was good enough.
I love biographies. They teach me so much and encourage me to know that people I admire (or am merely curious about) went through what I’m going through. They took the steps I’m taking and butted heads with the same obstacles I have. It’s a comfort.
But what’s even more inspiring is to see that they overcame, pressed on toward their goal, kept their eyes on the prize and made it to the top.
Success isn’t for a chosen few. It’s for those stubborn souls who wholly devote themselves to it and refuse to let go. — Karon Thackston