I have more ideas than I know what to do with. Not just writing, everything. I literally have scrap notes lying around for different social media platform ideas and food business ideas and…everything.
One of those ideas I had recently was doing a podcast called “It’s Fucking Hard” which was basically going to be me talking to a wide variety of people, mostly creatives, but not all, about how hard it is to succeed at things.
Sure, there are a few people out there who have success after success after success and never seem to struggle.
Those tend to be the ones you see in the news and see interviewed everywhere. Because to get to the absolute top of an industry usually takes decades of building upon smaller successes and not failing in any other way that’s highly noticeable.
Especially in the more traditional corporate fields.
Which means that even if that isn’t the full story, when someone is on top there is an incredible incentive to present that sort of “always successful” narrative.
Society rewards success and expects successful people to be successful.
Someone who succeeded after failure is someone who could fail again, right? Oh my gosh, we don’t want that. We only want the people who were lucky enough to get it right the first time and keep getting it right because we pretend that’s about their inherent qualities.
(And don’t get me wrong. Every person I know who is at the top or near the top of their field works hard and is talented and skilled at what they do. And they’ve worked hard at it for years. That is a requirements to reach those levels. But we tend to leave out the fortuitous assignment to the right boss at the right time in someone’s career. Or the friend of a friend who made that key introduction. Or having the funds to push through the rough patch before the success. Or publishing the right kind of story at the right time.)
So I basically wanted to do this podcast with successful people where they opened up about the struggles they faced to get to where they were. Because I thought it was an important message to share with people.
First, that it isn’t always a smooth path to the top. That there are setbacks and struggles and dark moments. That you can go down, too, not just up. But that doesn’t mean you’re down forever.
(At some point early in my life, and I don’t know why I was this foolish and actually maybe it would’ve been true for me if I’d continued on my first corporate career path, I had this notion that you succeed once and that’s it. You’re always successful once you’ve succeeded. You are successful in your career and then you retire and enjoy the fruits of your success. Silly to think of that now as someone pursuing a creative career.)
Second I wanted to share that even at the top people have struggles. I know people successful in their careers who are full of stress and anxiety. Sometimes because they’re trying to stay at the top, but often because there are sacrifices being made in other areas of their life to be that successful.
When I was a consultant I traveled Monday through Friday (and, yes, Friday, because the place I worked for were that kind of people) probably 48 weeks of each year. Maybe more. That takes a toll on your personal relationships. And for many on their mental health.
I did some interviews during my MBA program where I talked to CEOs and other top-level executives and pretty much every person I talked to for that set of interviews had lost relationships or family connections to be where they were.
But I didn’t want it to be a depressing show. I wanted to focus on the fact that you have to decide if you really want it enough to push through the dark moments. To weather the lack of response. To keep going when no one seems to believe in you the way you believe in yourself.
Because if you can do that, you can succeed.
(Maybe. It’s not guaranteed. And it’s never going to be easy. Also, you reach Goal A and you’ll set Goal B and you’ll be right back in it.)
Anyway. I decided not to do that podcast because of the pearl-clutching that happens around the F word and the fact that my advertising options would be limited and I’d probably get taken down if I tried to launch a podcast with that title. But it was fun to think about during some early morning walks with my dog.
I decided to mention it today because I had a friend have one of those dark moments. I hope he works through it. But I figured it was a good time to remind everyone that no matter how successful someone is we all have those down moments and struggles. And when that happens you have to find something inside you that carries you through because the only chance at success is to keep trying.