Back when I was writing novels and working on getting them published, someone gave me a piece of advice.
“You need talent, luck, and persistence. Pick any two.”
It’s probably been twenty years since I heard those words, but I still think of them all the time. They don’t just apply to getting book deals, of course.
Whether you want to paint, write, play music, raise a happy kid, design beautiful houses, or run an online business that makes you happy and rich, you can reach your goals with just two of those three.
At first glance it might seem like two of them are out of your control. But let’s look at that more carefully.
What most people call talent is usually nothing more than passion.
If you love it, you’ll do it all the damned time. And the more you play, the more you write, the more houses you design or symphonies you compose, the better you get.
Yes, there are a few “effortless talents.” There are people to whom the words come so easily you just want to smack them in the head. There are people who play music as easily and naturally as I eat ice cream.
But more often, that sense of ease comes from passion and nonstop, almost obsessive practice.
If you have absolutely zero talent for your chosen field, you’re going to have a tricky time. But usually, it’s a matter of fanning a spark of innate talent until you start to become quite impressive.
The more you work, the more talented you get.
I’m quite a lucky person. I was born in an extraordinarily wealthy country, at a time when women could do pretty much what we like, and in an era of vaccination and modern medicine that kept me from being carried off by some infectious disease at the age of 3 or 4.
Those are all massive strokes of luck. They had nothing to do with anything I did — I just lucked into them.
But what most people call luck is very different. It’s “being in the right place at the right time.” Having things just fall into place. Coming up with opportunities just when you need them. Knowing the right people.
This kind of luck comes from a few different places.
You can improve your focus. Just like you suddenly see red convertibles everywhere once you buy a red convertible, once you start focusing on luck and opportunity, they pop up like dandelions after a spring rain.
Nothing magic makes that happen. Those opportunities were there all along – you were just looking at something else.
You can improve your frequency. If you want to roll a pair of sixes, you’ll have much more luck doing that with 10 dice than you will with 2.
Pitch a guest post to 10 A-list blogs and you’re a lot more likely to get a spot than if you pitch 2.
Talk to 1000 prospects, rather than 200.
Audition for 10 gigs, rather than 2.
You can improve your likeability. Who “wins” the customer, the juicy contract, the retweet, the great job?
Sometimes it’s the one who’s the most “talented” — the one who’s producing the best output.
More often, it’s the one who’s better liked.
Be nice to people. Make yourself helpful. Don’t throw tantrums (public ones, anyway). Don’t build yourself up at another person’s expense. Make generosity a habit.
That successful raging jackass we all know? He may build some temporary success for himself, but everyone’s rooting for him to lose. His karma is gaining on him, in the form of a whole lot of people who would rather distance themselves.
The more you work, the luckier you get.
This is the simple one.
Just don’t give up.
Keep writing. Keep making music. Keep blogging.
When something works well, do more of that. Learning from failure can work, but learning from success is even better. Big successes come from nurturing your little successes.
If there’s someone in your life making you feel dumb for your “pipe dream,” stop talking to that person about your goals. Possibly stop talking to that person at all.
Watch out for what’s sometimes called “inventor’s syndrome.” That’s what happens when you’ve invented some product or system or service that you think ought to change the world, but which, sadly, nobody wants.
Stay light on your feet. Find the story that you want to tell and that your audience wants to read. Find the intersection between passion and service.
Be too damned stubborn to quit, but not so stubborn that you won’t try new approaches.
And will you succeed?
Yes you will indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
Make your own talent, make your own luck, and activate your stubborn streak, and there’s nothing that can stop you.
Know what goes great with talent, luck, and persistence? Some first-rate marketing information. You’ll find it in the Copyblogger newsletter, Internet Marketing for Smart People. Lots of practical advice you can put into place right away, to make yourself so talented and lucky that you can’t help but succeed.