There are so many myths and justifications out there that refusing to follow through, especially after an initial setback, can feel easy or even good.
The truth is that self-defeating beliefs have to be torn out by the roots, no matter how comforting these ideas might be.
Let’s look at some:
“Artists/Writers/Whatever aren’t business people.”
There is an inherent implication in our culture that “business” is dirty and that great “artists” are somehow “anti-business”.
The reality is that all successful artists have learned to run their creative enterprises as businesses, out of planning or necessity and whether they realize it or not. Monet traveled to interior decorating events and worked hard to be a good salesman. He was a successful painter. Van Gogh refused to make more than a passing effort to try to sell his work. Monet was successful in his lifetime. Van Gogh was “discovered” after he died. Regardless of your feelings about their work, both artists are held in the same esteem today.
John Lennon believed that money and fame can’t corrupt your art – only you can do that. And he was right.
The true issue is the mentality of grinding out trash and marketing it well enough to sell. This mentality tends to lead toward mid-life crises and depression and isn’t advised. But the how’s and why’s are better left to a blog entry on the dangers of being a hack. Becoming a hack is literally when a creative person corrupts herself to chase money.
“Confident people are idiots; smart people are filled with doubt.”
This one has been meme-ified a lot lately and it’s pretty stupid. I don’t know George R.R. Martin personally, but I will bet you anything that if he was commissioned to write a short story set in Westeros, he would feel pretty damned confident in the result.
He might feel the normal human anxiety of being asked to write something and the initial anxiety of starting a new project, staring at a blank page/screen, but in his ability to write a short story? Get real. If an Apollo astronaut had to brief a new space traveler on the emotional pressures of space travel, I can guarantee that he could so with 100% confidence. He’s been there and done that.
This idea that all great people are self-loathing, self-destructive wrecks who quiver in their fear of other people is nonsense. It’s a myth that desperately needs to die.
Think about it: F. Scott Fitzgerald was confident. Socrates was so confident it got him killed. Einstein wrote about stupid people being confident, but the man radiated self-assurance, even if he privately had his doubts. He was so sure of himself, he took professor jobs and often refused to teach classes.
I think that this sort of myth was originally meant to discourage people from being arrogant and conceited, but it has been adapted instead to encourage people to justify their self-defeating attitudes.
Have doubt. It’s healthy. But if you have a set of skills and put in the time to objectively function in the upper ranks of people with those skills, why sabotage yourself by refusing to believe in what you’ve accomplished?
“It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”
Now that’s a tricky one. It sounds true. After all, no one succeeds at anything by going it alone. We don’t live in a vacuum. A writer writes for readers. A singer sings for an audience. An inventor invents things for people to use.
But the implication is that someone else will succeed because of people she has met and has had the privilege of being connected to by the natural accident of birth via family and inherited status and that you are stuck, screwed with the circle that you were born with and raised to expect.
It’s a cheap justification for failure — an easy way to let yourself off the hook rather than digging deep and going as far as you can.
The reality is that the power of expectation and social connection is entirely in your hands. If you have access to a computer with internet (you’re reading this, right?), you have the resources to develop yourself however you want and to gradually introduce yourself to whatever kind of people you want to associate with. With patience, honesty, and discipline, your inner circle can eventually be whatever you need it to be to do whatever it is you’re trying to do.
All of the ‘catch-22’ beliefs: “The game is rigged,” “You need money to succeed and you need success to get money,” “Life is a catch-22.,” et cetera are total BS. Whining is easier than achieving and this set of myths exist to make losing sound and feel justified.
“Of course I fail. The world is out to get me!” Or, maybe your strategy needs adjusting and you need to work on your weaknesses before trying again.
Rob Brezsny wrote an inspiring book on crushing this type of myth in your daily life: Pronoia Is the Antidote for Paranoia. While the bohemian, far-out style of the book and it’s presentation might not be your cup of tea; the core idea of the book and the nuggets of wisdom and suggestions for behavioral change contained within are priceless. If you ever find yourself blaming anyone other than yourself for your problems, this book is an immediate must-read.
“I have to wait for the right time.” or “I’m not ready to do [whatever] yet.”
The trick that successful people know is that you’ll never be 100% ready for anything.
If you’re at least 50% ready, be decisive and start moving toward making your dream a reality. And be flexible and adaptable enough to alter your strategy as you grow and learn. Action is always rewarded — even if the reward is knowledge and wisdom earned in the shadow of failure. I don’t mean to act like an idiot; sometimes the best action to take is learning the skills you know you will need and building up your social circle.
What myths have you noticed in your own life that might be holding you back?