How to Succeed

Half of being smart is knowing what you are dumb at and not doing it.

One of my favorite sayings. It’s helped me tremendously.

The impossible art of Li Wei.

The impossible art of Li Wei.

Almost every time I say that someone replies that if I really want something, I will be able to do it. All it takes is dedication and effort. I love the courage of that statement, but it’s not true. Supposing I wanted to be the prima ballerina of the Phoenix Ballet—not going to happen. Even if I practiced every day for the next 10 years. I took three years of ballet when I was seven, and did not continue. I don’t have the talent or the body type. I am too old to be a professional dancer. (Most retire around age 40.) I have arthritis. All the dedication in the world would not change that.

But the main point of the statement is slightly different and entirely positive. Instead of chasing after impossible dreams, take a look at your skills, talents, experience. Build on those. Thrive.

Don’t focus on your failures, shortcomings and try to ignore them to create a foundation that won’t support your dreams. It’s a waste of your life.

There’s a second half to that saying: The other half of being smart is knowing what you are good at and doing a lot more of it.

It’s always surprising to me how many people want to struggle when they don’t need to.

–Quinn McDonald is a writer who teachers writing. She wrote that saying in her journal when she was 27 years old.

9 thoughts on “How to Succeed

  1. I think the point is that you CAN do anything you put your mind to if you really want it badly enough, but you need to temper it with realism and managed expectation. People with disabilities do this all the time. To point to your example, if you really want to DANCE, and it is your heart, your passion, your soul, your life, you can. Maybe NOT for the Phoenix Ballet Company professionally, but if dancing feeds your soul, then take as many dancing lessons as you can, practice as often as possible, buy tutus, go to the ballet, surround yourself with ballet, and live your dream. I believe in reaching high, but I think sometimes we mistake what the highest goal is. Is it the commercial success i.e. I am not a successful ballerina because I did not get a job with the Phoenix Ballet Company or is it proficiency with the skill i.e. I dance whenever I have the opportunity, I get to wear dance clothing, it feels great when I dance, I’ve been dancing for 30 years now and yes, I have arthritis but I’m actually more flexible because I dance, and I surround myself with other people who dance.

    I don’t think we lust after talents we simply don’t have. I’m just not interested in extreme mountain climbing. I admire those who do, but, nope, not for me. We lust after talents we have but are afraid to develop because we think we aren’t good enough.

  2. The elllipsis pause . . . nothing wrong with it. I’m a visual writer. I like my pause to look like one. And besides, I’m smart enought to know that I don’t have the surface features of writing mastered. I’m smart enought to know that where my writing appears it doesn’t really matter too much . . . if it did I’d get some help.

    I try to be realistic about my strengths and needs.

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