From the Editor’s Perch…

How to Succeed: Part Two

When to Quit?

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man

Portrait of the Artist as an Old Man


Too many artistic life choices and too many ahh-ha! moments have left their mark on this poor asthete.


            Self promotion will only take us so far.  Sooner or later the Universe has to step in and promote us, if we are to succeed.  For example, I’m writing a serialized fiction story which I uploaded onto Authonomy, a serialized fiction webpage.  I created my best cover.  I wrote my best blurb.  For a month it just sat there.  It wasn’t until another author noted, and recommended it, that I began acquiring readers.

I remember Merle Haggard announcing at one point that he was hoping to win the Entertainer of the Year Award at the Country Music Awards Festival for the coming year.  Now I love Merle, but a notable entertainer he is not.  His style is bluegrass stoicism.  He’s as flashy as a wooden Indian.  I remember him saying, when he announced his ambition, that if he didn’t toot his horn, nobody was going to toot it for him.  That’s pretty much how it turned out.

But Merle learned.  And we can learn. 

Most advice on how to become successful discusses what we should do.  The problem is most of us are what we are, and so, we necessarily do what we do.  Character is destiny.  Human beings are not as plastic as those sitting across from us think we ought to be, or should be, or could be.  I know, your mother always told you that you could be anything you want to be.  Well, if you still believe that, stop reading – or, more to the point, why are you reading this?  Head back to Facebook and enjoy all those pictures of kittens.  There is usually a fairly narrow range of activities which the normal person is good at performing, and an even narrower range of activities at which they are very good at performing – if, in fact, there are any.  (A certain number of us aren’t very good at much of anything.  …Here’s a tissue.)

More useful advice would tell us what to quit.  Because anyone with a little resolve can do that.

Know Yourself

            Let me expand.  Before you become successful, you have to have been unsuccessful – or ‘not yet successful’…   And to stop being that, you first have to quit.  An old Jewish household furnishings estimator in one of Arthur Miller’s plays remarked, “The first step on the road to wisdom is to stop.  Whatever you are doing, stop it.”  I can’t think of better advice.  When you remove something from your life, it creates a vacuum.  And because ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ – this in turn employs the tremendous pressure of the Universe in a sort of jujitsu maneuver to re-fill this vacant space.   The effort required is all on the front end, in emptying yourself of what is burdensome, in creating that vacuum.  After that, the Universe acts as a big buffet, pushing stuff upon you, until you select.  Here again wisdom is required not to re-fill yourself with a past mistake.   It’s the same maxim as is choosing a mate:  Off with the old before on with the new.

So, how do we trim out the deadwood?  A  problem to becoming successful is deciding what to quit?  Should you quit this, or should you quit that?  Or, is it just a bit of this and that which you should quit?  Understanding this, will also help you to prevent acquiring another mistake – it could even prevent you from wasting your life!  Something which hangs over all artists like the Sword of Damocles.

So, how do we trim out the deadwood?

One way is to ask ourselves what we enjoy doing?  We are usually fairly good at something we enjoy doing.  So this first step is pretty easy and quite enjoyable.  Stop doing things you don’t want to do!  

The second way to prune your self is to look into a social mirror.  That is, try to see ourselves as others do.  Though asking them how they see us is called ‘prompting the witness’, and gives skewed results.  It’s best to just listen and observe.  If someone says you have a great ability to tell a story, then keep telling stories, and perhaps try to contextualize other ways you have of communicating in a storytelling manner.

Once a person discovers what they are good at, they simply need to do that with energy, and success is at its likeliest to follow.

So here you go.  Here’s my advice.  Just quit doing that!  Find where the deadwood is in your personality and trim it out!  Let the light in.  Let your green parts flourish!

Photo by Carl Nelson


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