There’s an unhealthy perspective that people have towards success, looking at what has made people rich, popular and loved, and assume that if they copy it, they will achieve the same ends.
The problem is, life doesn’t work like that.
Within every success story, there are countless failures and smaller successes that build upon each other to make what we see “now.”
It’s a problem that even effects the farming community. Someone starting out looks at a farmer like Joel Salatin, and says, “That’s what I’m going to make my farm in two years.” Without considering that it’s taken two generations to build his farm to where it is now.
We’re always looking for a shortcut, an easy way to get to the peak without climbing the mountain itself. Success, the kind that lasts, comes from the work, building off of our failures and small victories, teaching us how to master the skills life teaches.
A Farming Example (Why Not?)
Every farmer raising beans, soybeans, corn or wheat, will talk about his yields: how many bushels he produced per acre. It’s a simple way to measure the performance of the crop, the ground, and your management.
The goal is typically to maximize the yield, to try producing more bushels out of your existing acreage.
Organic, sustainable, and some conventional farmers, know that you reach your limits pretty quickly if you don’t develop your soil base. It’s the ground that makes a farm, and without having a strong fertile soil system, your yields will steadily decline until it’s producing a poor quality crop.
Over time, and careful application of cover crops, manure, and good management, the soil can be built to sustain crops with a minimal of added inputs, producing good high quality crops. Again though, you have to do the small work.
Farmer Bob isn’t likely to compliment Farmer Jones on his load of manure he’s spread on the fields. Depending on the farmers, he may be more likely to laugh at his neighbor. But when a good crop comes in, you better believe Farmer Bob is going to take notice.
Small and steady gains give competency with a tranquil mind.
The above rule is one I have taken to heart, and applies well in this situation. Should we become a success over night, we are very likely not going to have either a tranquil mind or much competency. Should you doubt me, look at the last few lottery winners and see what they’re up to these days.
In his book, Mastery, Robert Greene makes this observation about shortcuts in learning skills: “There are no shortcuts or ways to bypass the Apprenticeship Phase. It is the nature of the human brain to require such lengthly exposure to a field, which allows for complex skills to become deeply embedded and frees the mind up for real creative activity. The very desire to find shortcuts makes you eminently unsuited for any kind of mastery.”
Shortcuts end up being just that, shortcuts. Taking away opportunities for real growth and development. Hacks may be useful in the short term, but don’t play well in a long game.
This isn’t suggesting that we shouldn’t learn from the mistakes of others or read about methods and techniques to improve our lives and businesses, what it means is that we can’t skip ahead in line.
Doing the work, building our reputation, and learning from our failures doesn’t sound very sexy. It’s hard, it’s rough, and it’s a fight every step of the way, but it’s the only path that ends in the success that matters: The kind that’s earned.