Without something to really strive against few people ever bother to strive. Without something to truly strive for few people ever bother to overcome their lack of striving.
I concur with this assessment.
Some people get more done than others — a lot more.
Sure, they work hard. And they work smart. (While “smarter, not harder” is fine, smarter and harder is way better.) But they also possess a few other qualities that make a major impact on their performance:
1. They do the work in spite of disapproval or ridicule.
Work too hard, strive too hard, appear to be too ambitious, try to stand out from the crowd… and the average person resents you. It’s a lot easier and much more comfortable to dial it back and fit in.
Pleasing the (average-performing) crowd is something highly productive people don’t worry about. (They may think about it, but then they keep pushing on.) They hear the criticism, they take the potshots, they endure the laughter or derision or even hostility… and they keep on measuring themselves and their efforts by their own standards.
And, in the process, they achieve what they want to achieve. (Which is really all that matters.)
2. They accept that fear is an expected element in the process.
One of my clients is an outstanding — and outstandingly successful — comic. Audiences love him. He’s crazy good.
Yet he still has panic attacks before he walks onstage. He knows he’ll melt down, sweat through his shirt, feel sick to his stomach. That’s just how he is.
So right before he goes onstage he takes a quick shower, drinks a bottle of water, jumps up and down, and does a little shadowboxing.
Sure, he’s still scared. He knows he’ll always be scared. But he accepts it as part of the process — and has developed a process to deal with it.
Anyone hoping to achieve great things gets nervous. Anyone trying to achieve great things gets scared.
Productive people aren’t braver than others; they just find the strength to keep moving forward. They realize dwelling on fear is paralyzing, but action naturally generates confidence and self-assurance.
3. They can do their best even on their worst day.
Norman Mailer said, “Being a real writer means being able to do the work on a bad day.”
Extremely successful people don’t make excuses. They forge ahead, because they know establishing great habits takes considerable time and effort. They know how easy it is to instantly create a bad habit by giving in… even “just this one time.” (Because once you give in, it’s rarely just one time.)
4. They see creativity as the result of effort, not inspiration.
Most people wait for an idea. Most people think creativity somehow happens. They expect a divine muse will someday show them a new way, a new approach, a new concept.
And they wait, and wait, and wait.
Occasionally, great ideas do just come to people. Mostly, though, creativity is the result of effort: toiling, striving, refining, testing, experimenting… The work itself results in inspiration.
5. They view help as essential, not a weakness.
Pretend you travel to an unfamiliar country, you know only a few words of the language, and you’re lost and a little scared. Would you ask for help? Of course.
No one knows everything. No one is great at everything.
Productive people soldier on and hope effort will overcome a lack of knowledge or skill. And it does, but only to a point.
Highly productive people also ask for help. They know asking for help is a sign of strength — and the key to achieving more.
6. They start…
At times we all lack motivation and self-discipline. At times we’re easily distracted. At times we all fear failure — and success.
Procrastination is a part of what makes people human; it’s not possible to totally overcome any of those shortcomings. Wanting to put off a difficult task is normal. Avoiding a challenge is normal.
But think about a time you put off a task, finally got started, and then once into it, thought, “I don’t know why I kept putting this off — it’s going really well. And it didn’t turn out to be nearly as hard as I imagined.”
(That’s no surprise; it’s always easier than we think.)
Highly productive people try not to think about the pain they will feel in the beginning; they focus on how good they will feel once they’re engaged and involved.
So they get started…
7. …and they finish.
Unless there’s a really, really good reason not to finish — which, of course, there almost never is.
The goal should not be to degrade, lessen, or sabotage the ranks of the 1%. Much less to abolish the ranks of the 1%.
Rather the goal should be to create so many wealthy persons that they become the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth. But to do this the vast majority of people on the face of the Earth must become truly ambitious, industrious and productive. They must also become real risk-takers.
It is for immediately obvious reasons (to anyone who bothers to observe) that the vast majority of one-percenters are consistently ambitious, industrious, and productive. And habitual risk takers.
They are not dependent-minded people with a constant desire for indulgence and security. They are rather the makers of manners. And the shapers of self-effort and worth.
If you would be in the 1% you must become the 1%.
It is not indecipherable magic, it is good and well-practiced habit.
Well worth thinking on…
Frederick Wiseman, filmmaker, 84, on a walk in Paris. Wiseman’s documentary ‘‘National Gallery’’ had its premiere at the Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes this year.
Is there a difference from the way you work now and the way you worked when you were first starting out?
I think I’ve learned more about how to make a movie. The basic approach hasn’t changed. The method that I follow is the same one that I’ve always followed. I hope that I’ve learned from one movie to the next, at least enough not to make the same mistakes.
What’s the most grueling part of your filmmaking then?
Raising the money.
Early on, did you ever think you’d still be making movies at your age?
I didn’t think about it at all. I have a hard time recognizing that I’m 84, almost 85. I’m in complete denial, which I think is extremely useful. Of course from time to time I allow myself to be aware of it, but it’s not something that I dwell on. I like working. I work very intensely.
Any advice for young filmmakers?
And what about advice for your peers, filmmakers your age?
Everybody complains about their aches and pains and all that, but my friends are either dead or are still working.