Posts Tagged ‘motivational essay’

From the Editor’s Perch…

September 8, 2013

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

From the Editor’s Perch…

August 26, 2013

Editor’s note:   Now if this doesn’t expand my readership, I don’t know what.  Who doesn’t want to get ahead in life?

How to Get Ahead in Life


Where I work we sell copiers.  It’s a large place – we do a large business, with a big sign on top – and almost no walk-in customers.  In fact, people rarely call us up to inquire about a copier.  Now and then, someone new with very small needs, will inquire via the internet.  But basically, no matter how prominent your dealership is, or how big your sign, in order to sell a copier you have to go find a prospect and meet with them.  Our equipment costs a lot, and has proven to be quite popular.  But it doesn’t sell itself.  This is the first rule of advancement in life: Nothing sells itself.  Somebody has to tell somebody else about it.  You want something?  You have to tell someone that.  You have to ask people to do something, if only, “look at my stuff.”  Nothing sells itself. 


Then, whether selling myself or a copier, someone has to buy.  And to get that person to buy, you have to go to them.  They rarely come to you, which means that to get ahead in life you’re probably going to have to travel.  Bob Dylan didn’t stay in Hibbing, Minnesota.   Bob Dylan had to get to New York where they were buying what he was producing.  If you have an exclusive product to offer, statistically it just makes sense that whoever needs it will be somewhere else than right across the street, especially in Hibbing.  You’re going to have to travel.  Maybe you’re lucky, and your prospect is just downtown.


When I visited New York City some years ago, what surprised me was how small some of the famous spots were.  Greenwich Village was truly ‘village’ sized.  Little Italy was, indeed, ‘little’.  And yet these spots marked the ground zeroes from where numbers of artistic movements and cultural icons have originated.  This (plus some reading I have done) causes me to state another truth which is, that the leading creative activity happens within a fairly small radius; within a very small clan.  There are companies who employ large numbers of people, most of whom use our copiers.  But it is a very small number of people who actually determine whether it is our copier they will purchase.  Decisions about your future are made by a very small clutch of people who live and work and pass their time within a very small radius.  And you have to find them and get in with them if you want to become a part of it all; if you want to get close enough to grab the gold ring.


As Woody Allen noted, “eighty percent of life is showing up”.  He meant that you had to have the work done and ready to go.  But it also means, that you are there where the work is done.  So if you’re a musician and you’re in the recording studio, even if you’re not employed as a musician, you’re ready in case they need another horn, or if they are trying to think of a musician to call.  As noted above, you’re within the radius.   Kris Kristofferson started emptying ashtrays and sweeping up at Columbia Studios in Nashville.   When you ‘show up’ there is the possibility of something happening.   You want to date that special girl?  You first concern is to be nearby, to give her the sense that you’re already somebody within her community, who she might speak with, who she has ‘seen around’.   Show up.  Be there!


All of this advice will work whether you wish to get ahead in a big way, or just in the smaller way of the day to day, especially this last trick:  Be of help.  You want something from someone, be it recognition, attention, respect or whatever – being of help is an excellent way to start.  First, it’s a nice thing to do.  And second, it markets to the person’s needs.


Wherever a person needs help is a place where that person is a prospect.  And if you fill that need, there’s a good chance they’ll make a little purchase.  And this works with anyone whether it be a wife or a child or a boss or even someone you don’t know as yet.   You want to gain your wife’s attention?  Do something she needs doing on a regular basis.  You want to make sure your son obeys?  Help him to do something he’s interested in but doesn’t know a lot about.  They will come to rely on you.  And people recognize and respect the persons who they need and depend upon.  So be of help.  Help to advance someone else and they may advance you.


(One caveat here:   A little discrimination is in order here.  Be sure that person stands within a circle you would like to share.   They might be in a circle you are trying to get out of…!   Screen your prospects.   Otherwise, you might not feel better.  Not screening their prospects is how ‘nice guys finish last’.    ‘Caveat helpor’: Let the helper beware.)


Motivational Posters by Carl Nelson and available at:


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