Keep on, keeping on
I am on a five day photography course this week in India. The teacher is Martin Parr, which is like having tennis lessons from Andre Agassi or practising your three-point-turn with Lewis Hamilton. I love Parr’s work. It’s enlightening, life-affirming and often, very funny.
Although he’s a photography superstar, he’s happy to admit that luck has played a big part in his success which is nice to know. He said, “I work very hard and very long hours, so if you’re out there long enough, you’re going to earn some luck.”
As a singer I’ve had more than my share of rejection, but thankfully, I’ve been lucky enough to keep working. The trick is not to let the naysayers get you down.
In her research at the University of Pennsylvania, Angela Lee Duckworth looks at what it takes to become successful. She studied students, West Point cadets and corporate salespeople to find the answer. More than household income or intelligence, when it comes to predicting success, the defining factor is grit. That is, the ability to keep going despite the bumps in the road. She found that the people who do well are those who keep trying even when they get the wrong answer, their business fails or they loose a big sale. It’s that simple. Just keep on keeping on, and eventually, you’ll get there.
Another photographer, Chuck Close, put it like this: “The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work.”
That quote could have come straight from the pages of one of my favourite books “The War of Art”. In it, Steven Pressfield talks about all the resistance we create for ourselves when we ought to be working on our goals. So much of ‘being successful’ depends on discipline. You have to show up and get on with it, whether you feel like it or not, and eventually, you’ll get there.