The Secrets to Success: As Told by an Unsuccessful 20 Year Old
By Via Justine De Fant
From the age of 6, when I could really start to consider what I wanted to do in life, my options were endless and I felt without fear. I’d jump from one couch to another, scaling the stair railings in my house and declaring that I would be the world’s best mountain climber. After my parents found me precariously perched on the high summit of a pile of unstable boxes, they subdued this craving of mine and forced me to watch TV. Since they disapproved of television shows that held no educational value or benefit, my options were limited to PBS and science shows. Soon, I changed course to become a chemist, mixing different liquids I found in my refrigerator. After that went down the drain, I decided to be an actor. Of course, this lasted up until my mom walked in one me reciting lines in the mirror to which I responded by screaming, “why can you never respect my privacy?” and then slamming the door shut.
I then picked up my first guitar. I hammered away as if I were a b-string Billie Joe Armstrong, but after a week’s worth of practice, calloused fingers, and my limited ability to transition from one chord to another, I left my aspiration of being a lead guitarist in the Boulevard of Broken Dreams. By the time I reached high school I convinced myself that I’d make it big as a journalist. But after two years interning at the local newspaper company, I found that the incessant stress of time-sensitive work was just not the kind of challenge I wanted. Unfortunately, I learned later on in college that this aspect of life is inescapable.
As you can see my goals and aspirations were always changing, but the one constant that stuck with each endeavor I aimed to accomplish was simple. It was to be successful. This entailed Lamborghinis stacked with champagne bottles and me leaned over the railing of my mansion making it rain over my adoring fans.
Money, power, recognition– that’s what I wanted in my life. It didn’t matter what it was I did to attain it, just that I did. And my task since realizing this was to attain this success and make it, for lack of a better phrase, my bitch.
Now, I feel compelled to share with you a bit of tips and tricks that I, a wait-listed successful individual, believe all accomplished people must achieve. Sure, I may seem a tad bit unqualified, but if there’s one quality that any successful person possesses, it’s being overly ambitious.
Step One: Utilize Your Sources
Browse through self-improvement articles and self-help books from “successful” people you’ve never heard of before. Read as many as you can find on how to be successful and how to make a name for yourself. Read so much so that you begin to predict the bullet pointed steps that are about to be listed off even before you start the piece.
Soon after, I suggest you forgo this endeavor all together when you start to notice that you’ve read the same advice so many times that it starts to mean nothing. You’ll also be unable to achieve “the one thing all successful do” and wake up at 5 am every day. What this will accomplish is self-realization.
Realize that you are your own person and what works for one won’t always work for another. Use this excuse constantly. Just because a large percentage of prosperous individuals do what half the world is too lazy to doesn’t mean you should as well. So go ahead. Sleep in. Have more lazy days than productive ones. And for the love of god, don’t stare into the mirror and chant a mantra about how powerful you are today. Because none of these steps are convenient or fun.
Step Two: Create a Formula for success. All successful people have formulas.
Make your own list or formula with your extensive level of experience and knowledge. You’re an adult too (20). You’ve read enough “How To” articles. You’ve been exposed to the harrowing challenges of life and growing up. Except taxes, getting fired, or the stress of buying your own home, but that’s okay because you’ve read Buzzfeed’s “19 Charts That Will Help You Be An Actual Adult.” You’re an expert.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll soon be able to realize that the best formula is not to have one.
Fuck it. Just wing it.
Tell yourself that it’s best to live a life of chaos and disorder because you’re young, dumb, and crave that kind of excitement. It’s totally not because that’s easier than taking the time to really organize yourself. It’s okay to hope that the unmatched pieces of your life will somehow magically fit into place like some cheesy Adam Sandler movie. Successful people don’t actually have to try or be consistent. That’s a myth.
Step Three: Ignore people who say, “You have time! You’re still young.”
No! You don’t have time. You know this because your mind ceaselessly reminds you how much you’re lacking when it compares you to those your age who’ve already accomplished so much. You’re growing old every minute you waste. You have to find what you love now so you can be successful in it before someone else beats you to it. Put all this pressure on yourself whilst doing nothing to change it. But tell yourself that you’re remaining stagnant because you’re waiting for “the right time.”
Step Four: Make The Right Choice
There’s nothing harder than making up your mind. But successful people shouldn’t be indecisive. They need to make good choices. Luckily all you have to do to achieve this is to take a breather. By breather, I mean binge watch Netflix, maybe work out or organize your closet for the 4th time and convince yourself you’re still being productive even if your attention is focused on the wrong thing. You’ll want to wait till the last minute of course. Use the excuse that you make your best decisions when under pressure and any choice made before would simply leave more time for you to change your mind.
You’ll also want to overthink your decision. Repeatedly ask yourself if you’re making the wrong choice. Make a pros and cons list, then promptly ignore it because what you should do isn’t what you want to do. Maybe flip a coin and pretend it’s defective when it keeps landing on tails. Put yourself under more pressure because you don’t want to just make a decision, you want to make the right one.
Step Five: Soul Search
When you still can’t make up your mind, stare out the window. Make sure your expression is pensive. Ponder about your struggles. Ask yourself why you’re so lost as you try to relate yourself to the falling leaves landing on the ground only to be crumpled in indifference by that stray dog that always shits in your yard. Such poetry.
Don’t worry about your neighbors as you stare out with puzzling expressions. Their house is pink and brown. They don’t have the right to judge. While you’re at it, create a playlist reflecting all the turmoil you’re feeling, putting into rhythm the soul-itching need you possess to make something of yourself and the fear that you’ll never get there because you don’t actually know how. Let the lyrics sink in and convince yourself that you’re soul searching when you’re actually just wasting your time.
Step Six: Fear Failure/Fear Struggle
Failure is your enemy. It’s the fuel those who want to squander your dreams use to make you feel even more inadequate. Like Sam who stole your pink, glitter crayon in the first grade and told the teacher you went into the boys’ bathroom when you didn’t. Like Jeremiah who always finished his work before you, perpetually leaving you in second place. Like Chelsea from fifth grade who said she was the better lyricist when in actuality she just stole the words from “Perfect” by Simple Plan. Don’t give them that power, that satisfaction. Don’t fail.
Fear struggle. Just look at Steve Jobs. He founded Apple, but he was fired from his own company. I mean, sure he ended up rising from all that and delivering a commencement speech that provided people with motivation for all but 15 minutes, but he struggled. He failed. And you don’t want that. You want a straight path, sans rocky roads and ledges that could send you straight down to rock bottom. You can be successful without failure or obstacles to block your way. Keep telling yourself that.
Step Seven: Cherish Fleeting Moments of Clarity
Cling to those quickly passing moments where your mind quiets down. These are rare and a blessing, so don’t let them go to waste. These are the moments when you’re stuck in bed at 2 am, staring up at the ceiling and realizing that somehow, someway, you’ll be okay. You may not have it all figured out now, but you will. Hopefully.
It is during this time where you actually admit to yourself that you have no idea what the fuck you’re doing, who you are, or why god, Allah, or some entity who you imagine has the same voice as Morgan Freeman, is really even concerned about you, a tiny speck in the vast universe. You don’t know why, in some subconscious effort, you’re the only one truly rooting against yourself. You don’t know any of these things
But that’s okay.
Because, ultimately, you know where you want to be.
In the winner’s bracket.
You’ll start to see success as less about money, power, and fame and more about happiness and fulfillment. And you realize that this will all come with growth. You will learn that in these moments what you must possess is patience– a virtue that’s not easily achieved, but crucial. In these early mornings, you will want to work hard for that success, struggle and grow, embrace your fears, wake up early every morning and one day have a solid, organized formula to call your own. You will want to foster the patience for that day of utter vindication. Where all your “struggles” become, in hindsight, the things that made you successful.
For now though, to your complete frustration and confusion, you are still unable to fully accept these truths enough for them to carry on through to the next day, week, or months.
So cherish these 2 a.m.’s. because you will wake up to their absence.
And you won’t know when they’ll be back.