When in Doubt, Set the Bar Higher
This is the column I first published in September 2012. See what you think.
It’s very easy to grow too comfortable. Once you’ve settled into a groove, it’s easy to feel assured that you’ve got it made and there are no more challenges to tackle in order to prove your mettle, to yourself or anyone else.
Writers and other creators can’t afford to think this way. Or if they do, it’s only because no one is challenging them.
That’s the big secret of being a successful entrepreneur. A true creator rises to the occasion, no matter what the endeavor.
Being an entrepreneur means not taking the safe and sure path, but being willing to take risks and fail. It’s in our failures that we learn the most. But you must be willing to examine your failures and learn from them, if they’re to mean anything.
We live in a time of great possibilities for everyone. I’ve often heard it said that this is the best of times to become a writer, because of technology and the advent of ebooks.
Writing this as an author who cares about literature, I happily agree with this statement. However (and at the risk of sounding like Spiderman’s father), with great power comes responsibility. Authors have a responsibility to make sure their work is as good as they can make it. If they’re indie authors, i.e., writing entrepreneurs, they have the additional responsibilities of making their products widely available at the appropriate price, as well as marketing and promoting their work, so as to make sales through various means.
But that’s not all. Writers and other creators have a duty to themselves and others to push the boundaries of their abilities. Because when you do, you’ll find you’re capable of more than you think you are.
This is where successful authors and creators often fall down. They get stuck in a rut or pigeonholed, and they fail to take steps to branch out or redefine themselves.
This analogy can be extended to any endeavor. People grow way too comfortable and fail to realize their own potential. This doesn’t have to happen, but it often does. Enough that it amounts to a very old story.
So many people look back on their lives, with regret. “If only I’d done [fill in the blank].”
This was also the fatal flaw in my analysis of Steve Jobs’ speech. I missed his point entirely, when he said that he tried to live each day as if it were his last. The point, as I see it, is that we all have the ability to do awesome things. We just have to choose to do them. And we’re all capable of doing that, if we try.
Nothing brought this point home harder for me than reading the words of my column at this time last year.
I’ll quote the really interesting part:
Case in point (and at the risk of sounding a bit full of myself): me. I’ve written two novels that managed to hit the Kindle Top 100 on Amazon and Amazon UK. And my first novel became a New York Times bestseller last March. Did this just happen by itself? And was it because of amazing talent or shrewd marketing? Both? Am I really that good (at writing or storytelling or marketing) or am I just lucky?
Regardless of the reason for my success, I was the one to make it possible by publishing my book, i.e., I chose to make it happen.
The key words are that I chose to make it happen. Now, I choose to keep going and innovating in my own way. Like Steve Jobs, finding the right balance between work and play, and knowing that one can succeed and find meaning in one’s work. And that’s the point.
PS: I would change nothing. Other than to do it all sooner. 🙂
Originally published at http://randomandsundrythings.wordpress.com on May 20, 2022.