On Winning

Creation isn’t about winning. At least not in the sense that a 100m dash or a football game are about winning. Where one person might see a win in finishing a manuscript, another might say there’s no win until you’re published, and another might say nothing’s truly been gained until you have a bestseller on your hands – one that’s at the top of the New York Times’ list, in the same month Jonathan Franzen releases a novel, and is then nominated for a Booker Prize. The mountain has no peak.

If you’re a painter or a musician or a dancer, at what point do you feel you’ve achieved something of worth in your field? Maybe you have your own benchmarks, and a mental list of people whose nod of approval means you’ve made it. But approval is fleeting and subjective, and rarely without agenda. And if you manage to reach whatever your dizzying heights are with one achievement – your book, building, song, perfect day – you can only rest on your laurels for a moment before someone well-meaning or mean-spirited asks you what you’re working on next, or says your building’s ugly, your book is dull and your painting’s derivative.

Points being: respect every stage of the process, and respect your efforts; enjoy whatever strikes you as an achievement en route; and don’t let others set the level of the bar. Think about why you want to create as much as you think about what you want to create.

If you do believe you have a clear notion of personal success, you might find this interesting. Richard St John’s talk on why once you ‘succeed’ you can never rest. This man finds happiness through constant work. Exhausting and I wondered if he might want to go back on the Prozac.

That was a talk he gave in 2009. In 2007, he got his notion of success down to eight words. Personally, I found this more insightful and wise.

The words, should you not wish to invest three minutes listening to this, are:

  • Passion
  • Work
  • Focus
  • Persistence
  • Ideas
  • Push (yourself)
  • Good (do good)
  • Serve.

Persistence was my favourite. That’s for another post.

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