Tag Archives: success

Sacrifice for Success

Sacrifice

The other day, my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?”

I had just announced I would be missing another family function in order to audition for a radio spot that would air in October to promote my memoir, Red Eggs and Good Luck. Since January, I had been pitching articles, essays, videos, appearances, and speaking engagements in anticipation of snagging prime spots to showcase the book in the hopes of increasing the number of pre-orders and garnering more sales.

Of course, my husband didn’t understand. I hadn’t publicized my other books outside of social media and local appearances. But after discussing my goals with my publisher, I decided to hire a publicist and expand my marketing efforts beyond anything I had ever anticipated doing. My family cringed when I announced how much time and money I planned to devote to this book. My husband said, “We need a new car!” My daughter asked, “How am I going to afford college?” My son, who can’t talk, didn’t say anything. But if he could, I’m sure he would have protested too.

No one knows the magic formula that causes one book to rise to the best seller list and another book to remain unknown. Publishing experts offer advice, but the truth remains a mystery. Otherwise, the formula would be replicated without fail.

My family knew I was gambling, placing a bet on something that may or may not pay off. But a lot of the risks we take in life are gambles, including the biggest risk of all: falling in love. Exposing yourself to another human being with the chance of being hurt and disappointed doesn’t stop most people from taking the first step to connect.

So when my husband asked, “What more do I have to sacrifice for your success?” I responded, “Whatever it takes for however long it takes.”

Success doesn’t have a deadline. Neither does love. Or anything else that’s worth the sacrifice.

Gratitude is Attitude

“Always the bride’s maid, never the bride,” I said, when my daughter was asked to the Homecoming Dance as a freshman.

“That’s not true,” my husband said. “You’ve been the bride.”

He was right, both literally and metaphorically.

Although I was using the cliché to describe a disappointment in my life, my husband’s observation brought my perspective into focus. I had a bad habit of taking the tiny victories in my life for granted because I was too preoccupied working toward bigger, better dreams.

Unlike other people who can savor their achievements, I seem to skip ahead to the next milestone without blinking. When I fail to reach the next goal in a timely manner, I collapse into despair. I dwell on what I haven’t achieved instead of being grateful for everything I have accomplished.

Yes, I didn’t attend the Homecoming Dance as a freshman. But I did attend my Senior Ball.

Yes, my first novel was self-published. But my second novel was purchased by a Canadian publisher.

Yes, my artwork wasn’t selected as a background selection for checks through a licensing company. But my original paintings grace living rooms and offices in North America.

Yes, I still hold a full-time job in a less than creative field. But I am able to offer creative solutions to corporate problems because my imagination is agile from the daily exercise of writing and painting in my off hours.

Instead of comparing my success and failure to others, I need to focus on myself and my growth as a person, a writer, and an artist. There will always be others who are more or less successful. The key is to be grateful for the success I’ve earned while I continue to strive for more.

Because you can only be a bride for a limited number of times, but you can be a bride’s maid for as many times as you are asked by as many people as you may know. Your big successes will be few, but your tiny victories will be plentiful. It’s those victories you need to cherish.

Limitlessness

RunHow are you limiting your success?

For years, people tried to encourage me to paint on larger canvases. Instead of taking their advice, I continued painting portrait sized landscapes that could be discretely hung in an office setting or as one of many paintings on a living room wall.

Now I realize why I shied away from those larger canvases. Fear. It’s easy to paint small, to say to the world, “My creativity can fit on my desk.” But if the audience wants to hear you scream instead of whisper, you have to decide whether to respond to that request or continue to hide behind the fear that limits you.

I finally took that leap of faith when I put down a wallet sized canvas and purchased a wall sized canvas that took up the back seat of my car. The next-door-neighbor helped me carry it into the house.

Then my heart sank.

All those excuses on why I couldn’t succeed threatened to extinguish the hope I had been feeling. I was eight years old being scolded for drawing when I was supposed to be memorizing my multiplication tables. I was sixteen years old in the guidance counselor’s office being told to choose a different major because no one makes money drawing pictures. I was twenty-eight years old in a job interview being told my artistic vision was too original to ever make it as a marketing director.

But the amazing thing about faith is the magic behind its force. My husband rearranged the furniture to accommodate the oversized canvas. My daughter suggested potential subjects to paint. And my son, who usually dominates the entire household with his demands, decided to leave me alone.

If you can abandon the excuses others have given you, those same excuses you have chosen to make your own, you can unleash your success.

Surprises

Sometimes success happens long after you’ve given up hope for a happy ending.

Let me explain.

Years ago I visited a retired executive to go over my business plan. I wanted to expand my art business through manufacturing and licensing, but the retired executive believed I could never accomplish my goals because I lacked the time.

“You need 80 hours a week to do what you want to do,” he said. “Anything less is certain failure.”

That experience dampened my exuberance. Instead of walking away with a strategy to transform my business, I was advised to give up.

I didn’t follow the advice, but I did scale back my dream. I stopped pursuing manufacturers for a contract and settled for keeping production in-house. I stopped courting companies to license my artwork for personal checks, calendars, books, and clip art and settled for producing limited edition prints instead. I stopped trying to expand my market to art galleries in New York and settled with art galleries in San Francisco.

This week I received a call from an art gallery owner I hadn’t heard from in a long time. “Are you still at the same address?” she asked.

“Yes, I am,” I said. “Why?”

My largest and most expensive painting had sold. The art gallery owner was calling to confirm where to send the check.

After the initial shock wore off, a warm glow of joy and satisfaction overcame me.

I sold a piece of artwork I had mentally written off.

I had given up just like the retired executive had advised.

And I was wrong.

I started wondering what would have happened if I had not listened to that retired executive and had continued to pursue my big dream.

Who’s keeping you from pursuing yours?


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Move Beyond Despair

Rain in Australian Rainforest Cairns, Australia

“Action is the antidote to despair.”
–Joan Baez

Rejection is an inevitable part of the publishing business. Not every literary agent, editor, or publishing house is going to share your vision for your story. Even those who want to shepherd you may find they cannot connect with your story in a way that will bring it to its fullest potential. They may lack the same passion as you do for your project and decide to pass.

After facing several rounds of rejection, you may start to doubt your story and yourself as a writer. When the clouds of “no’s” start piling up in your sky, it’s only natural to expect a little despondent rain. Just remember: do not get soaked.

My favorite artist is Vincent Van Gogh. I’ve traveled to see his original paintings, read all his letters to his brother, Theo, and studied about his art and life. My fascination is measured equally with repulsion: no matter how much I admire his artwork and his passion for God and the common people, it does not overshadow the fact that Van Gogh was basically a failure, living off his brother’s charity, selling only one painting during his lifetime, and ending his own life with his last words being, “This sadness will last forever.”

When I first became acquainted with Van Gogh, I thought I could outsmart the darkness by denying I was an artist and embracing a practical, mathematical, and scientific way of life. That failure led me back to where I began: as a child fascinated equally by both the light and the darkness, success and failure, hope and despair.

Over the years, I’ve learned the duality exists as two sides of the coin. You cannot have acceptance without rejection. You cannot have success without failure. You cannot have joy without despair. The key, however, is to find a balance.

When the rainfall of rejection starts pounding on the rooftop of my thoughts, I take action. I resist the impulse to let the sadness tug me deep into the undertow of negative thoughts that can easily spiral out of control and sink me deep into desolation. I engage in activities that bring hope, light, and joy into my life, whether that be creating something new, spending time with loved ones, or reading a good book.

Not every creative act finds a home. Not every invention is patented and sold. Not every cure for every disease is discovered. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to create, invent or cure. We do not let despair paralyze us with inaction. We take a break to gather strength, recalibrate our instruments, and step forward toward hope.

The rainfall of rejection eventually dissipates like any other storm. The secret is to engage in pleasurable activities and indulge in positive thoughts to prevent from drowning in misery, for no sadness will last forever.



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Success in Life, Love, and Career from the Mouth of Tough Love Bob

Bull's Eye: Leading a Purpose-Driven Life Filled with Success, Health, Wealth & HappinessBull’s Eye: Leading a Purpose-Driven Life Filled with Success, Health, Wealth & Happiness by Robert Kennedy

I had to pick up this book. I knew Robert as “Tough Love Bob” and looked forward to reading his motivational columns each month in Oxygen magazine where I was privileged to be featured as a “Fit Mom” in 2005.

Although I have had many setbacks to the life I’ve wanted to live, Tough Love Bob never made me feel bad for those slip-ups. He always encouraged me to forgive myself, embrace this moment with good choices, and strive toward a better future. He knew we are all human and not perfect, but that a series of better choices eventually leads to success.

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