I believe in a success gene.
OK, maybe it isn’t truly a gene – you’d have to do one of those nature/nuture tests where you separate identical twins, and see if one of them grows up to be a captain of industry while the other becomes captain of towels at Lucille Roberts.
But I do know this:
Some people naturally have those “success habits,” and some don’t.
Back in our early 20s, my friend dated an NYU film student who’d just finished making a documentary. It was about a “hate rocker” who, while performing, would crap his pants, then smear poo all over his face and fling it at the audience. He’d also punch his fans in the face, and simulate sexual acts. No, make that sexual assault acts.
You’d kind of expect a film student who choses subjects like that to be a rebel-slacker type. But then, no rebel-slacker type finishes making a movie. This guy did.
What really tipped us off that he was a go-getter, though, was what he did next: early every morning, he took VHS copies of his movie and mailed them to important people. From the post office.
I told my friend, you can tell he’s going to be successful. Because he goes to the post office.
I know, you see all kinds of sad-sacks lined up at the post office. So maybe it isn’t a foolproof predictor. But it was so far beyond my own capabilities. I couldn’t even be bothered to put a stamp on a bill and mail it down the chute in the hallway.
I was right about filmmaker guy. He’s now an A-list hollywood director. Make that A-plus-list.
I’ve seen other people like him. You can tell, they do the things they need to do without even thinking about it.
- Show up on time
- Get work done on time
- Mail things (yes, on time)
- Change lightbulbs right when they burn out
- Get up early
- Finish projects
- Keep things nice and neat
- Keep promises
- Implement good advice
- Tackle work instead of bitching about it
- Resist making excuses. Especially fake ones.
Most of the things on this list don’t come naturally to me.
I’m not one of those people. But that doesn’t mean I can’t act like one.
Here’s how I play “successful person”.
Every time I don’t want to do something, I ask, WWASD? (What Would A Successful Person Do?)
And then, I do it. Like so:
Every morning when I get up, I start to walk away from the unmade bed, thinking I’d rather do it later. And then I remind myself, “a successful person would make the bed right now so it looks nice all day.” Then, I make the bed.
When I get a work assignment that I know is going to be hard, instead of saying, “Fuck, I don’t feel like doing this,” I say, “Bring it on!” Because that’s what successful people say. Don’t worry, I only say it in my head. “Bring it on” is so done. But the sentiment works.
When I’m getting ready to go to a meeting: “Successful people leave extra time.” Done. I’m out the door early.
When I’ve started an assignment too late: “Successful people don’t lie and say they had a family emergency.” I admit I fell behind. Or just pick up the pace.
When I really do have a family emergency: “Successful people don’t save the excuse for later like it’s a gift card.” Really. My dad had heart surgery this year and it occurred to me to use the story some time in the future. Clients, if you’re reading this, I didn’t do that. It’s not what successful people do.
I’ll probably never be a natural.
There are times I don’t even try. Especially with cleaning the house. Or getting up early — my body isn’t built for it.
And when I do try, I always have to go through the whole routine: The “I don’t want to.” The “WWASPD?” The “Sigh. OK.”
The born-successful people don’t deal with that mini-struggle. They just do stuff. Automatically.
And those are usually the people writing all the books and blogs and newsletters on how to succeed.
Me, I’d rather receive success tips from someone who has to do it manually.
So, if you feel the same way, I’m a good person to give you this tip:
As long as you’re impersonating a successful person, you are one.
You can play “successful person” too.
What are you avoiding doing right now? You know what a successful person would do. Go do it.
Now, I have to change the lightbulb over my desk. It’s been out for about a week. But tonight, I’m feeling successful.