In order to talk about success, or more aptly, have the audacity to talk about success, one must first be honest; really honest—and honesty takes nudity. Whether you want to take this as a figure of speech, it is my opinion that the only true way to be honest is to take your clothes off, stand straight up, allow your flabby gut to extend itself uninhibited by obnoxious breath deprivations, and stare straight on—and look, truly look—without flinching, without obscuring—look at yourself for what you truly are.
So since it is I who has decided to take pen to paper and fingers to keyboard in order to post this on my little old blog, I suppose then I should start by taking my clothes off first. Since I am writing about success I suppose it is necessary for disclaimer purposes, that I should state in advance that what you’re about to read is not the story of a woman , who after many years of relentless struggle has now reached the vaulted “pinnacle” of success—at least not yet. Or the story of how as an independent author I discovered a way to corner the literary market and now despite all odds, am a best-selling author—at least not yet. No, none of the typical accoutrements of success can currently be ascribed to me. For many, this would automatically disqualify me from speaking on it; why talk about success when, in not so polite verbiage, you are a loser. There is plenty of that, going on already. My counter-retort to that inevitable answer is that success is achieved even before it is realized; the proverbial I think therefore I am. What do I mean? Well let me first start by explaining my nudity.
Throughout my life I have experienced a series of events, both big and small, that have been classified in my psyche as failings. This could be seen in my successive loss of friendships, inability to form any meaningful romantic relationships, inability to find meaningful employment, and a myriad of other small events that have pricked my heart and soul. With each successive “failure” it seemed to reinforce all the past and actual future failings. This was and still is not, something that is directly obvious about my person. I can, when putting effort, carry myself remarkably well. But underneath, I was moving like Cain, with the mark of “LOSER” on my forehead, and for those who bothered to pay the slightest attention to me I am convinced that they could either see it, or feel it, because I do believe in such a thing as energy.
The other thing I’ve come to realize and truly comprehend is that I take failure very badly. Now I’m not just talking about the “Big Things”; I mean any type of failings, because in my mind, even the smallest failing links back to the myriad of other failings—and well that just doesn’t sit well with me. Now this isn’t something I just admit to anyone—not even my self—but it is in fact, although I hate to acknowledge it, the truth that I have known all along. It is in fact this open acknowledgment of this truth that enabled me to realize—remarkably clear—the key to success. It is belief—more aptly—self-belief. Sounds stupidly cliché and simple right—I know; however let me proceed to demonstrate how simplicity in essence, is not always that simple and that the answers already exists even before you think of the question.
WHAT IT MEANS TO TRULY BELIEVE
Belief is kind of a tricky thing. It is one of those words, like love, hope, beautiful, that gets thrown around far too lightly without any genuine comprehension of the meaning. What does it mean to truly believe in yourself—i.e. have perfect self-confidence par excellence (I love that phrase). The first thing is to distinguish between phantom or half-hearted self-belief with the real one. How does one make such a distinction? Well I’ll use myself again, as an example. One of the things that I hated said to me when I have failed to achieve a certain goal is that I didn’t believe hard enough. Aside from being what I perceived to be insulting, I thought this was patently untrue. I did believe—in fact I did nothing but hope and pray fervently. I saw the success; I wanted it; but when I sit and think about it honestly I didn’t believe it, because belief requires more than just a lot of hope, a lot of prayer, and desperate wanting. True belief is knowing that the answer is already there and having the unflinching confidence in yourself that tells you that you can get that answer. It is that single aspect more than anything that determines whether or not you will achieve what you set out to do.
Many people see this type of belief in action and call it drive. When you say that someone is driven it means that person has determined that no matter what—they will get that answer. To achieve that level of determination is not something you can just will into existence. It actually requires several things. Principally it requires an acute and accurate appraisal of all the obstacles that you can foresee that are in your way and methodically, sometimes slavishly, try to find a solution to each of those obstacles. It is also an acknowledgment that there will also be obstacles that will not be foreseen and when those obstacles do arise, you must be confident that you will be able to face them with the same determination as you did the ones you did foresee.
The second factor is not acquiescing to defeat. You may not realize this but subconsciously you may have conceded to your own failure. You could have wanted something, dreamed of something, and even prayed for it—but deep down didn’t believe it would happen. And because you didn’t believe—truly believe—you didn’t work correctly to put it into effect. What do I mean by working correctly? I mean putting everything that you have in the direction that you see and know will happen. The vision takes work—and work is pretty damn hard.
BELIEF IS LIKE MATH
You might think I’m saying this because you’re supposing that I—like a multitude of others—suck at math and therefore am equating the difficulty of math with true self-belief. This is only partly true; I do in fact suck at math, but I actually have another intention. If you think about math, it is really just a numerical expression of logic. No matter how seemingly complex the equation, mathematics by definition, already assumes that there is an answer to every equation, and that correct answer is definitive. It is not important how this answer is derived and that is actually the beauty of it. There can be many ways that the correct result can be reached, even if it takes an enormous struggle—the fact is the answer to the solution is there. It is also a fact that the best mathematicians in the world are those who are able to derive the most simple and effective ways to attack the problem. They apply logic and if you want an example of logic think of riddles. The key to solving a riddle is to look at the obviousness of its statement without over applying your own thoughts upon it. Take something as simple as what is black and white and red all over: a newspaper. Or the stupid easy one that every kid knows—why does the chicken cross the road; to get to the other side. The answer lies in the question itself, and this is the nature of belief.
To bring in a literary reference in Oedipus Rex, the reason why Oedipus was able to solve the Sphinx’s riddle “what walks on four feet in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three at night,” is because he—unlike seemingly the entire town—came in determined that no matter what he would be able to solve that riddle and when he operated on that principal and allowed his mind to look at the thing dead straight, the obvious, i.e. “Man”—became clear. This is life. Life is a riddle, and like math, the most brilliant at it, are not those who are dazzlingly complex, but rather those who know that when they look at a problem dead on, that they can solve anything.
IT IS WRITTEN
Does all that I’m saying sound ridiculously familiar and cliché? I would hope so; because it all is. The thing about clichés is that they tend to be truths that get repeated so often that their meaning gets lost. Like “you can do anything you set your mind to,” sounds great—but what does that actually mean anyway.
I will openly admit that I am not a religious person. While I respect organized religion I am generally not a true adherent to it. However what I do believe—fervently actually—is that all religions whether they be the large formally accepted ones, small community based ones, revolve around sacred texts, or words of wisdom passed on from an elder—within them contains some profound truth about life. I believe this because just like my previous examples on logic, math, and riddles—that the answer is always there.
I’ll use The Bible, as this is the text I’m most familiar with, as an example. If you read the New Testament, most especially the Gospels, there is one message that gets pounded over and over again, and that is belief. Of course everyone thinks this is in reference to Christ and God, but that’s not what I’m actually talking about. As much as there is that, there is just as much about “self-belief.” Think for example the famous walking on water episode. While nearly everyone recalls the part of Jesus walking on water they forget that the apostle Peter also walked—in fact the moment that he stopped believing in this remarkable ability he began to sink, and thus Jesus had to save him from drowning. One of the things he says to Peter is, why did you stop believing? There are actually several episodes like this, one for example when he states, if you say to mountain it will move it will. In fact if you follow everything Jesus does, you’ll realize the apostles, ordinary folks, can also do those very same things. Now my point is not to state that you can fly in the air if you dream it so, but rather without taking it literally—it speaks to having confidence in yourself and that defeat happens when you concede to it in your mind.
PROOF’S IN THE PUDDING
So aside from exemplary words or other’s words, what form of evidence do I offer? I place before you Exhibit A: my mother. Now I know that you don’t know the woman. She is in fact my mother—nevertheless she is my closest example of what it means to have perfect confidence. Numerous times in her life and sometimes in view of others, my mother has made declarations that due to her particular circumstances, others have deemed outrageous. When she was young and severely economically challenged without a husband who was employed, she stated that the next time she moved she was going to buy a house. With her salary, and her position, everyone thought it was laughable; so what did she do—she bought a house. A few years later, having achieved that, she then told my father the next home she bought, she’d own it. Again laughable—but now she does. For years she told me that she would own her own business, and without a job, considerable financial or familial support, before my eyes she became a business owner.
This uncanny ability of hers to declare things and then see them into action is downright comical at times. Once when we were in her store and had a particularly bad week in terms of lack of sales and customers, that Saturday, after another empty day, she looked at me and stated that before we closed that day she would make a sale—even though we had none that week. We close at 5:00 pm on Saturdays, and a little after 4pm, a woman walked in and within five minutes bought something; that was almost scary.
Now I use these examples not to make my mother into some type of supernova—or witch. In fact I am the only person who has seen her at her lowest, seen when that confidence wasn’t there, and like she’s done for me innumerable times, picked her up off the floor when she was at the depths of despair. Everything—and I do mean everything—that my mother earned was by incredible strength, hard work, and at times agony. However none of it could be accomplished without her ceaseless belief in herself. When she tells me now that one day she and her business will be known I believe—because I see the power of self-confidence.
“YOU EITHER PRAY OR WORRY. BUT DON’T DO BOTH.”
This quote from Curtis Jackson, aka 50 Cent, is one of the simplest, most profound, and most difficult to achieve. Don’t think as I write about this perfect self-confidence and belief that I have managed to achieved that, because I haven’t—not by a long shot. I still suffer from a crippling lack of confidence that was years in the making and will take years to unravel. However what I do realize and what I wanted to share was that the answer, just like most things, was right in front of me all along. You can be your greatest friend or your greatest enemy—for many years I was my own enemy. Your greatness, i.e. your success, is there, if you choose to believe it, and act relentlessly in accordance with that belief to see it through.
Conceit, an inverted form of lack of confidence, just as depression is an unexpressed form of rage, self-doubt, anxiety, past failures, and other’s past failures, are all obstacles you have to fight and continue to fight for the remainder of your life. But if you want to succeed, you can choose to do nothing else.
Truth be told, I wrote this and many pieces like this, for myself as much as for that random person who reads it and is able to find some meaning and strength from it. This is for the moments when I forget I had the answer all along. I hope it is the same for you.