When “Success” Feels Like it’s Not Happening Fast Enough
I recently got an article published on The New York Times.
That’s a pretty big deal for any writer, so you can bet your ass that I celebrated with confetti and a dance that looked kind of like this:
“You’re killin’ it!” a friend later said to me.
While that was nice to hear, I didn’t agree — not out of feigned humility, but because I knew something that everyone didn’t:
I had waited six months for that article to get published. (Eight if you count the initial pitch email.)
Many may marvel at my patience, but in truth, I had no choice. For six anxiety-filled months, I kept wondering if my article would see the light of day, and with each passing week, wished it would just happen already.
We demand that good things happen to us quickly, but as it turns out, life isn’t like cooking a cup of instant noodles.
Losing weight, learning to play the guitar, building a profitable online business, and getting an article published in a highly reputable publication all take time, and more important, deliberate, consistent work. We “know” this, but that little idealistic voice in our head still can’t help but squeak, “Gosh darn it, if Amazon Prime could rush-ship us a blender why can’t it also bring us a svelte bod in two days?!”
I heard a voice like this too while eagerly waiting for the darn thing to be published. I imagined people gushing over and admiring my article because I remembered how I had felt when I saw a fellow writer get her article first published somewhere prestigious:
That I could do that, too.
We are constantly bombarded with inspirational stories of friends and strangers who went from “rags to riches”; lost 28 pounds in eight weeks; wrote their first book; or quit their job “Office Space”–style and traveled the world — with the detailed context of their journey, sacrifices, and circumstances redacted.
And still we muse: “Yup, looks possible for me too.”
There’s nothing wrong with ambition.
The problem is that we rarely see the raw amount of time, effort, and pain they’ve invested (sometimes they themselves can’t deconstruct what they did exactly; it’s the Secret Habits of Top Performers). We see only the end result and know that we feel the uncomfortable tug of envy, awe, and coveting all the same.
You want to do what they’ve done, and so these often bogus success stories then become your personal field guide to helping you sate your own fantasies of having that awe and envy redirected back at you, only from someone else. It’s almost strangely circular, and then comes the twist.
When progress isn’t coming along as you’d like or expect, a feeling of malcontent, born out of a discrepancy between your own story, happening now, and the sexy-sounding, sped-up highlights in the success stories you’ve seen, simmers and soon boils over to anxiety and this all-consuming feeling of being rushed.
If you knew what the road to your “success” REALLY looked like, would you be as eager to smack straight into known setbacks?
Probably not. But you also wouldn’t be disillusioned. You’d be prepared. And you’d know what to do through the hard parts.
My friend says I’m killin’ it, and maybe I am. Maybe what I really “killed,” if anything, was my own feeling of rushing to arrive somewhere — in this case, getting an article published. In the future, it’ll hopefully be getting to that coveted six or seven figures in my business or speaking Japanese more fluently.
Oh, and in the moment when the article finally went live, I felt that it had actually arrived not a moment too soon or too late. It was fast enough.