Today’s post is brought to you by Dustin Fife: novelist, blogger, Youtuber, and podcaster. Enjoy!
What’s it like at “the top?” How will it feel to rise to the levels of success we currently wish and dream of.
I don’t know. Really. I have no idea. But I suspect it’s not as glamorous as we up-lookers think.
I think sometimes the problem is that we see those who’ve “made it” (whatever that means) and assume there’s something inherently different about them–that they’ve got something we don’t have, that the pixie dust fell on them and blew off into the atmosphere before it could land on us.
After all, that’s what the “top dawgs” seem to suggest. Right?
Alright, alright. I’ll quit my yapping and get to the story. (Storytelling is what I do, after all). Several years ago, the missus and the “me” were talking to a struggling photography student of ours. Said student was desperate to start a new career (and I mean desperate) and struggling (and I mean….oh, you get it). There was a moment in the conversation where the student said, “Maybe I should just give it up. It’s obvious I’m not going to make it.”
We did the best we could to encourage the fledgling photog, but he remained irredeemably depressed.
Fast forward a year. *cue noise of a cassette tape fast-forwarding*
Said student (we’ll call him Jim. It’s about time he has a name) had made it. Something happened and the dude found his niche. And with that discovery, he skyrocketed to the NY Times best photographer list. (If there was such a list…okay, so I’m exaggerating. He wasn’t that successful, but he did find quite a bit of success).
During an interview with Jim, someone asked how he found such success. You want to know what Jim said?
Er…nothing of interest, anyway. In other words, not once did Jim make any mention of his past struggles. Not once did he talk about how close he came to giving up because he was failing!
And it’s not that I was mad he didn’t attribute any of his success to me or my wife (and rightfully so….we had little to do with his success). I was frustrated because he had robbed so many people of the opportunity to see there is no magic pixey dust for success. He missed the chance to tell his “fans” that, yes, he had insecurities. He had doubts. And, if you persevered like he did, maybe you could overcome the same failures.
I admit–I’m a bit arrogant (and a tad nonconformadistic [yes, I know it’s a made-up word, but it sounds cool]). If I hear somebody famous is in the building, I purposely stay in my room because I don’t care about somebody who pretends they have it figured out.
You want to know who my heroes are? My heroes are the ones who overcome a crippling weakness and become something despite their weaknesses. My heroes are those who are “at the top” and yet admit that, holy cow, they are needy.
So, in full disclosure, let me tell you something. I don’t have it figured out. The “tagline” of my blog is “lessons learned.” It should probably be “insights I once gained that I’m trying to remember but keep forgetting so maybe I’ll post it on this blog to a modest audience in hopes that the added level of accountability will finally get me to invest enough energy to drill that lesson into my head once and for all.” (But my marketing director [me] favored the brevity of “Lessons Learned.”).
And maybe, just maybe, some day I will be at the “top”–my books will sell millions and they can’t build servers large enough to send packets of web data to all my visitors. If I get there (or maybe I should say when I get there….let’s be optimistic!), I’m not going to forget how stinkin’ hard this is. I won’t lie that this has been tough and it will be tough.
Let me conclude with the secret of life–nobody has it figured out. We all struggle. We all find success and we all fail miserably. I suppose the ultimate “lesson learned” is we keep trying. Never give up. And when we make it to the “top,” let’s not sip our fine Spanish cocktails and enjoy the view of those who are weeping as they trudge the same path. Let’s not forget our own broken goals litter the same road.
13 Replies to “The Real View From the Top – A Guest Post By Dustin Fife”
Thanks for the opportunity, Shawn.
Humble artists are the only ones I stay fans of. I can’t personally separate the artist from his work. I’ve appreciated work before but I won’t call myself a fan of its creator because that creator isn’t honest, true, or humble. Don’t get me wrong, someone can be totally outgoing but still humble. All it takes is not allowing the glorification of self.
Like when Jennifer Lawrence is faced with a picture of herself and someone asks her, “Isn’t that beautiful?” She’ll respond with something like, “Isn’t Photoshop amazing?”
When you’re at the top you’re faced with SO MANY people telling you are SO AMAZING. It’s the ones that respond appropriately to that attention that I consider myself a fan of.
Absolutely! Jennifer Lawrence is a great example. Despite being at “the top,” she still has this child-like innocence about her. Love it.
One could have everything, but the only thing that matters is happiness. Great post, Dustin.
Exactly! And I suspect that those who recognize the difficult path they tread are the most happy. Or, in other words, those who are most *genuine* are the most happy.
Awesome post! Gives one a lot to think about.
Perhaps its a psychological thing. I tend to think on the positive and push the negative far back in my mind. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about those who are struggling. Sometimes I wonder, who wants to hear my sad story?
I wonder, too, if some who are struggling are “ready” to hear about the struggles of others before these others succeed. Your story will be welcomed by many; but some have to have the “little light” come on in the back of their minds before they will say, “What am I doing with my life?”
I can hear my nephew now. “Quit lecturing me! I will life my life as I please, you go live yours.”
I think some folks get so caught up in themselves that they would never admit that they had it tough at some point.
There’s another category of successful people. Those who died unknown and penniless whose work was “found” after they died! Here’s an interesting list but Google it and you will find more both writers and artists who fall into this category.
Humans are a curious bunch!
That’s a good point. I remember hearing from Brandon Sanderson that he wrote something like 8 novels before he finally got published. I didn’t want to hear that when I was a noob. It can be discouraging. I think the advice is best for those who are currently struggling (not those who are looking to begin).
Whoops. Here’s that web page. http://mic.com/articles/62651/9-incredible-writers-who-only-became-famous-after-death
First, I can’t believe he answered the question like that.
Anyway, it’s sad that some people hasn’t figured out, because I do admire people who got through something, made it to the top, and can still keep their feet on the ground.
The best part about them is when they use that fame to help and lift other people.
It’s people like them we have to know, to give us hope so we’ll keep going especially when exhaustion and depression starts.
Great post Dustin. I think there is a whole lot of ‘being in the right place’ and some ‘luck’ (or God) for success to occur. We all struggle and we won’t all overcome, and some will achieve more success than others. But at the end of the day it’s the journey and our attitudes on that journey that matter, not the destination :) If we can encourage others on their journey, so much the better.
I really enjoyed this post, Dustin. I think a lot of people will be able to identify with what you say here. And you made a great point: people who succeed don’t quit–they keep trying even though they make mistakes.
Thanks, Brenda. That’s the hard part–forcing yourself to keep going when you’re failing. (Speaking from a boat-load of experience).
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