Even This One

Seriously, put down your digital device and grab your work boots. You will find no shortcuts to success here.

Okay, I’ll be honest. I’ve read lots of motivational articles, and watched lots of motivational videos.

Hell, I’m sort of writing one right now.

And they’ve been really great for getting through tough times in my work and life in general. They’ve helped me a lot. In the past two years I’ve come so far in my craft (I’m a concept artist and illustrator) that at times I can hardly believe it. But, I still have a long way to go too.


The people who I am addressing right now are the people that the videos, books, articles, etc., didn’t work for.

It really is a cruel trick, isn’t it? That these things, when you read, watch or listen to them, really make you feel like everything is coming together so nicely—they make you feel like you’re being given a nice stern talk, and you needed to hear it. You’re going to change, and work hard. Because working hard (as they say) is the only way to get to where you want to be. Sounds legit.

When you step away from the motivational pep talk, feeling rather good about yourself and how you’ve seen everything anew, sooner or later you are faced with one of those situations that we all hate to be in—your alarm goes off at 5 A.M. because you were going to start doing things differently, but you hit snooze. Just once. Then twice. Then eight or nine times. You feel a little guilty but it’s no big deal, it’s not like you can’t get work done later in the day.

Or, maybe you see someone online whose skills completely wow you; they have that thing, that oh-so-awesome talent that you wish you could have! But you get discouraged and decide to take a little break to watch some TV. It’s not like you could hold yourself to that standard anyway. It’s just not realistic. Plus, you can’t work like a dog all the time right?

Your friend asks you out to get drinks, and who wouldn’t accept? But you know you haven’t yet accomplished what you set out to do today… oh well. This is a special occasion, can’t beat yourself up about it. You don’t want to be a workaholic.

By the time a week has gone by, everything has gotten back to its usual comings and goings.

You feel disappointed, having acquired this new found motivation only days before. You were going to surprise and impress them all, the world was yours, your problems seemed silly little things that didn’t need to be fretted over…

By God, you were a bloody winner. And no one could tell you differently.

So…what happened?

You haven’t changed at all.

But why? It’s not fair that it’s so hard for you to find the right answers, the winning philosophies. So, you go back to searching for that one trick, the one all-encompassing mantra that can push you full steam ahead to get you to the dream job, or have the dream skill.

If this sounds like you… then stop looking. Because what you seek is impossible to find.

You want all the reward, and none of the difficulty. You want the buy-out; the most “efficient” way to get to the place you want to be, with a job you love that pays six figures that all your friends are jealous of. Right? Or maybe you’ve convinced yourself that’s just a fantasy, like winning the lottery. So you scuttle around trying to find your “winning ticket” because that seems the most likely way you’ll get to be where you want in life.


Stop looking for a shortcut, a magical video or website that will tell you the SECRET or TIP that you are looking for, and read this carefully: give up on finding it. NEVER look for it again.

Think about whatever goals you’re trying to find the motivation to achieve in your life.

Think specifics.

Now slow down, take a deep, deliberate breath, and count to five. Exhale. Feeling better? Good. Now drop everything and get to work.

I don’t care where you are or what you are doing. You might even need to stop reading this article if you don’t trust yourself to do so at the end of it.

Start right now.

The most out-of-your-comfort-zone route you can think of that you normally wouldn’t even consider, preferably (nothing too physically dangerous of course). Even if you’re certain that you will fail miserably or that it won’t work.

Go to a figure drawing session and sit in a room around a bunch of people drawing a naked person, even if you suck at drawing. Go to the bar wearing a suit and meet people. Play your scales on the guitar—for hours—until your fingers can no longer take the pain. And then do it again tomorrow.

Because honestly, the amount of time you spend looking for and discarding the shortcuts is probably more than what you’d spend taking the hard road and actually getting something done. When you’re in a tough, uncomfortable situation, it’s sink or swim. It’s the fastest way to learn something.

(For the record, I am not saying that putting yourself in terrible, pointless, masochistic situations gets you good at something—completely not the point.)

The idea is, you can talk about wanting to be successful like you’ve been doing in the past, you can say there’s no point in putting in the effort because you’ll get bad grades anyway… or you can get in there and actually try your hardest, turn in every assignment, show up every damn day. Even if that means going through the cold freezing rain, studying for days uninterrupted and failing anyways.

Yes, you read that right. Prove it. Actually DO something and take the first step! Until then it’s just another thought in your head.

Wasn’t it Rocky who said “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward”? Something like that. Same concept.

Too many people are so afraid to fail that they don’t move at all, they stay fixed where they are. Moving forward and becoming great at ANYTHING, takes risk. And time. And pain. And failure.

Not just when it’s convenient either. Take a pass on that hangout with your friend and say maybe next time. Miss your favorite show. Get up early. That’s when you’re really tested—when you choose to give up the things you LIKE doing.

The victories are real and so worth it.

As my teacher Chris Oatley always says, you can’t steer a parked car. Stop being so victimized by fear and take a little pain, ‘cause that’s what it takes to succeed.

I know I sound like a hard ass, but there really is no secret to success, in any aspect of life. Though if the truth to this were a secret, it would be the best hidden one in the world, since no one wants to believe it’s true.

You have to do the tough, ugly, discouraging, real work to get better. It’s not sexy, it won’t give you instant gratification, you won’t see instant results. You have to never be comfortable where you are, and keep stretching yourself every single day, relentlessly. It hurts to tear muscle, as it should. It’s hard. It can make you cry from frustration and feel like you aren’t making progress when everyone else around you is. It can make you feel like you never want to venture out socially or fall in love again.

But, if you keep pushing through the pain for long enough (and sometimes just a little longer) then you will find the unwavering motivation to get what you want in life, because you know you can keep going, and never stop.

Only the man that digs can strike gold. If you give up, you’ll never even know how close you got. And that will stay with you forever.

You know why it seems like such a secret to everyone? Because no one else is doing this. No one, except for the kinds of people you aspire to match. They understand this “secret”. They understand this is a marathon, not a sprint. Everyone else gives up. Everyone else quits when they’re tired.

Everyone else is looking at motivational videos on YouTube.

If you want it as bad as you say you do, you have to be obsessed with taking another step, with pushing through another challenge even when you’re having a bad day, and checking off your goals little by little as you meet them. Obsessed with stretching your limits, in every aspect of your life. No matter how small or seemingly trivial the task.

Make yourself do it. Every day. It’s a discipline.

Don’t think you need to? Too extreme?

Maybe success isn’t for you.