Greatness is not something you are born with. Greatness is something you achieve, and most of the time; it’s acquired through great struggle, failure and disappointment. There’s no equation or scientific formula that can predict who will become great or who doesn't. Being born into a wealthy or prominent family cannot guarantee you greatness nor can it be deterred by a lack of money or opportunity. At the source, greatness comes from the soul of a human being. Greatness comes from passion, desire, courage and determination. If you want to be great as an artist, learn to stand up and be proud of who you are, what you create and what you dream of becoming. If you don't believe in your innate greatness how can you expect anyone else to?
A baby boy was born in a one-room cabin in 1809. Seven years later his family was forced out of their land and he’s forced to work to help ends meet. At age 9 his mother passed away. With little or no education he has to support his family and begins to educate himself by reading books. At age 19 his sister dies. In 1831 a business venture of his fails. A year later he runs for State Legislature and loses. Later that year he lost his job and tried to go to law school but couldn't get in. A year later he was bankrupt. In 1834 he ran for State Legislature and finally won. A year later he was engaged but his fiancée died and he was grief stricken. In 1836 he had a total nervous breakdown and was bed ridden. He runs for office two more times in four years and is defeated. He finally gets married in 1842 and has four children, though only one lives to maturity. He runs for Congress in 1843 and loses. He becomes a Congressman in 1846 but loses re-election. In 1850 his son dies. He runs for Senate in 1854 and 1858 and loses both times. In 1860 he is elected president. In 1862 his son dies at age 12. In 1865 he is assassinated. This man failed all his life but got back up and kept going. Today he is one of the most famous presidents of all time - President Abraham Lincoln.
Lesson for us as artists:
Life may be unbearable at times. Family, health, debt, failure and any number of things may bring you to your knees. Keep going. Continue to believe in your dream and you will make it a reality. It doesn't matter where you come from or what you have, you can do the impossible.
This man lost his father at age 6 leaving him to help take care of his siblings while his mother spent her days working. After his mother remarried, he was moved to an aunt's home and ended up quitting school in the 7th grade. This man, after running a fairly successful restaurant for several years found himself penniless at age 65. When a new interstate bypassed his restaurant his dreams fell apart and he sold his restaurant at a loss and decided to retire. He collected his first social security check for $105.00. He had a little known recipe for chicken that he wanted to share and began actively looking for a business partner. He went restaurant to restaurant trying to sell his unique recipe on a handshake. He literally heard 1009 "No's" before he finally heard his first yes. 1009 times. At age 75, after franchising for over a decade he sold the rights to his company for $2 million dollars ($15.1 million in 2015 dollars). Col. Harland Sanders is regarded as an icon in the fast food industry - all from a man that could have lived the rest of his life, broke in retirement.
Lesson for us as artists:
It's never too late. No matter where you are in your career or how much you have in your bank account, keep moving forward. Do all you can with what you have. Most online promotion is free - use a computer at the library if your Internet is shut off. Never stop no matter how challenging life seems.
Some of us get the right start and capitalize on it with everything we have. At an early age, Aristotle tutored this young boy. He distinguished himself in battle with his father and at age 20, he assumed the throne after his father was assassinated. No leader has ever accomplished more militarily and in 15 years he never lost a battle. He studied and adapted his strategies to each situation and exploited the landscape and his opponents achieving victories even under insurmountable odds. He leveraged the lands he conquered and exploited the skills and expertise of the leaders to govern his new lands. He built mutually satisfying alliances and acted on his next instincts, constantly in forward motion. This great man - Alexander the Great.
Lesson for us as artists:
Act on your instincts - don't think of failure if you have the courage to dream or take a risk. Do the best with what you have and know, without a doubt, that anything is possible.
We all may not be presidents, fast food icons or military geniuses but within all of us, lies unbounded potential. Sometimes that potential is tested over and over. To achieve greatness, you must learn to become emotionally pliable – the successful organism is the organism that constantly adapts to its present circumstances. Recognize that your current situation is not your future – your future is contingent on how you push forward in the present. To put it simply, if you acquiesce to your present failures, you’re screwed – you’ve created a dreadful and damning mindset that will surely bring more failure and upset. Don't get me wrong, we all have bad days – Lincoln lived most of his life trudging through them but he never lost sight of his dreams.
Some of us want to point the finger and say, "well, that works for them but they didn't have to deal with my blah blah blah." We all have baggage, limitations and handicaps – you’re not as unique as you may think. Some people chose to keep their struggles quiet and forge on. Others love to swim in it – they can’t help telling the world how bad their life sucks. They spill their guts on social media every day looking for a pity party but what they really get is more strife and eye rolls. The more you focus on all the obstacles in your life, the more obstacles you’ll get. And truthfully, no one likes a chronic complainer – in fact, airing your grievances to even the smallest audience only weakens your value as a professional. Find yourself a confidant and share your struggles with them – your career and self-esteem will thank you.
I encourage you to shift your perspective and see your challenges as valuable lessons rather than severe punishments. Often times, we do more damage by trying to control our future rather than allowing it to organically happen. I’ve been guilty of trying to force certain aspects of my career in the belief that it was the only way to achieve success. There were times I’ve failed so badly that I thought I’d never recover but in an instant, that massive failure brought some amazing and unexpected blessings.
Here’s what I do know, you can’t be certain of anything. When you try to make things happen that aren’t meant to, you create unnecessary chaos in your life. Take a breath, have faith in yourself and relax. If you maintain a positive outlook, work hard and never give into self-sabotage, you can’t fail.