In my experience over the years, talent has very little to do with success. I have watched a slew of corny TV movies where maybe the actor isn’t the best in the world, but you see them in a ton of different shows. You’ve got to respect their hustle.
The same goes for any field that you might wish to pursue. It really doesn’t matter if you want to be an actor, a scuba diver or a restaurant owner … the hustle ALWAYS pays off. In my 51 years, including about 13 as a professional writer, then a journalist and associate editor (I need to check that number, I always guestimate, lol) and my hundreds and hundreds of interviews, there are GLARINGLY OBVIOUS similarities I have noticed throughout the years that apply to all of these people.
They are successful because they follow successful life practices. There are no secrets, there is no hidden mystery plan, they just do what they gotta do.
So this said, here are the 10 things, action items and/or techniques to employ that will get you on the path to achieve the success I’ve learned over the years.
Write down your wildest dream life
To me, this is a HUGE step in the right direction. What do you want? Write it down, word for word. And don’t be afraid, write down your biggest dreams as if there were no limitations of blockages to your path. This is a form of manifestation, trust me the ancestors are listening and they want to help you. Take some time to honor your thoughts … you might even be surprised at what you want.
Map it out … a life game plan
Ok, so you want a 10-bedroom house in Florida, a three-wheeled bike and you want to be a professional comedian. Fantastic! But now, how do you get from living in an apartment to your dream life? Map it out. Get out a piece of paper or a notebook and write where you want to be in 10 years. Then write how you would get there based on where you would need to be in five years, then write how you would get to that point on where you want to be in two years, one year, then six months, then a month a week and day to day. What do you need to do today to get the ball rolling toward your dreams? Again, you will be surprised what comes up.
Eat that frog
There is an author named Brian Tracy who wrote a book called Eat that Frog. He is a successful speaker, author etc. that says ‘if you eat a frog first thing in the morning, it will be the worst thing you do all day.” Yeah, sounds gross, but the idea is to write out all your priorities each day and do the one big thing you want to do least. Focus and get it done. Continue this practice day-to-day and you will be amazed what you can accomplish in a short time.
Work while others play
I can’t tell you how many times all my friends have been out to go have a great time and I have stayed back to focus on work. I have often told the joke to successful people I have interviewed, stating, “Yeah, it is always nice to see your friends outside the window on a hot summer day with flip-flops and a beach towel on their shoulder waving goodbye as I am hacking away at a keyboard.” We have always shared a laugh because they get it. Be that person. Work when others don’t. Be the best you can be, work your hardest. Hard work is the answer.
There is no such thing as a get-rich-quick scheme
I rarely, if ever buy lottery tickets or scratchers. I am not judging anyone who does, I just don’t. I don’t really believe in monetary rewards that aren’t earned with hard work. I watched for 40 years as my father worked tirelessly in a factory without once complaining to provide for the family. Over my years, I have invested in a couple of those late-night get rich plans that failed soon after I bought them. The only person who got rich was the guy I bought it from. It’s ok, I learned a great lesson. I have learned in my life, that the idea is NEVER far-fetched if you are willing to work. That’s just the way it is. At 51 years of age, I have never found an exception to this rule.
There is no such thing as a back-up plan
Moms and dads out there may want to wring my neck for this one, but I need to say it. Take those thoughts of having a back-up plan and throw them into the garbage can or deleted folder. You don’t need a back-up plan. Having a back-up plan is a small seed of doubt that gets planted and takes root at the back of your mind, the longer it’s the the bigger the tree grows. Rip it out when its the size of a weed. Years ago, my wife Delores told me to quit my job and go for my dreams of being a writer. I didn't have a back-up plan. But I worked my *** off and I made it.
Let’s say five years go by and you fail, you utterly fail. Guess what, it likely means you didn’t really want it, or just weren’t ready yet. But you learned a lesson, you taught yourself that you valued your dreams. So maybe you have to get a job at a place you don’t love while you reassess your life. How is that different from a back-up plan? You deserve to honor your dreams. A back-up plan, in my view, is a destructive mindset.
Take control of your finances - Pay your bills first
Get whatever book you need to get, watch whatever videos you need to watch, do what it takes to feel in control of your financial situation. Money can be a nightmare, but it can also be an amazing ally if you learn to work with it. Do NOT ever spend money you do not have for non-essential items. There is no shame if you are struggling to seek help from shelters, food pantries or social services. In my life, there are countless times where food stamps and more has helped me make it day to day. But get control, pay your bills first and work toward managing your life with joy and empowerment.
Get exercise, eat fruits and vegetables and work to make the best you possible. I am not saying be a vegan like me (though I love it and feel fantastic with a plant-based low-fat diet) but do the best you can do for you. As I write this, I admit I would love to exercise more. Let’s improve our lives together, shall we?
Balance your life between family, friends, yourself, work and rest
In your life plan, make sure that there is a good balance of family, friends, yourself and work. The keyword is balance. While work is important, it is also important not to neglect our loved ones or ourselves. Be available if you are needed, but also take time for yourself and rest.
Don’t be a grump
Okay, full disclosure here. This is the one I struggle with as I have a set game plan in mind and become cranky when my trajectory is thrown off-course. As I write this, I have literally realized that this is something I haven’t written down and need to work on.
As Baz Luhrmann reads — from a 1997 advice column for graduates by Mary Schmich of the Chicago Tribune — when referring to forgetting insults, but remembering the compliments, “if you succeed in doing this, tell me how.”
Surround yourself with like-minded people
I say this because it is important. But I am also going to warn you that if you truly set your sights on your dreams, you will find this is going to happen whether you like it or not. As you continue to dedicate your life toward your desires and focus on your dreams, sadly, a lot of people you thought were your support system will start to fade away. I am not trying to sound like Debbie Downer, but I had a long conversation with Gary Litefoot Davis about this, and we both agreed that this was a circumstance of dedicating yourself toward your dreams.
This might seem incredibly unfair, but I am telling you this with a sentiment of truth. Your friends around you will change. Some of them might even retaliate against your successful efforts. They aren’t mad at you, but people striving to succeed scare others. This is where you can be a source of strength. They might come around someday. I have friends that have changed their lives and I see them eventually come to run up right beside me in this footrace we called life. That makes me happy as I truly want everyone to succeed. I truly do.
Help others as much as possible
When you begin to get to a good place and are able to look around in a positive way at the success you have created or beginning to create — you then need to share your experience with others. This is critical. Your friends need you, your family needs you, the young people need you. As much as I might be able to give advice from my own perspective, only you know your own life, your own tribal Nation, in your own hometown or Nation, etc. and you are uniquely qualified to help those around you.
In order to keep things moving forward. We always need to give back. But here is a great part about giving back, as you make the decision to take control of your life, as you make the decision to work hard, and as you start to achieve great things little by little, you are already starting to help others by example. The great thing about taking the right path is remembering that sometimes you will be helping others without ever knowing about it.
As you head out on that path to your life, ALWAYS ask advice. Native culture is beautiful and we are so fortunate to have the wisdom of our elders who graciously offer their words to guide us. Take advantage of it. They have made mistakes as a human being and will tell you how to avoid those same mistakes. As a Native man, I don’t shy away from the fact on how incredibly important it is to get insight from an elder that is a woman. As a man, a lot of my decisions are testosterone-based aggression-based acts, so I need to keep them in check. A Native woman elder keeps me on the right path. Trust me, all Native men need to be kept in check by our Tota’s / grandmothers.
Read biographies to avoid mistakes
Make sure to take advantage of the life biographies of people who are working in the industry that you love. A biography is a literal step-by-step action plan to success. Take advantage of those life lesson plans. Invest in yourself.
Last but not least, immerse yourself in your traditions, language, and culture for guidance
In our quests for success and achieving our dreams, it is incredibly important to remember who we are and where we came from. Immerse yourself in dance, your ancestral teachings and more. Reaching for success is aiming for the sky and is an upward trajectory, so it is important that we honor and practice our traditions that will keep us connected to the earth.
It is extremely important to maintain this balance.
Thanks for reading.
Follow Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling (Akwesasne Mohawk) on Twitter - @VinceSchilling