A salve for those who have not found success yet

CordPhoto courtesy of Kevin Doncaster

I’ve always had big—if not always specific—dreams.

To be a musician and fill concert halls, to be a sound engineer and produce bands, to build a large and vibrant online community, to be a financial coach, to be able to travel the world as much as I want, to work for myself. Anything to escape the life that everyone expects everyone else to lead. The whole gut-wrenchingly boring “Well, it’s almost the weekend” comments that people make on elevators.

You may not have dreams that look anything like this, but I know that you have dreams of your own. Moreover, these are probably as-yet-unrealized dreams, dreams that are still in play, dreams where you might wonder if they will ever come to fruition.

It can be a frustrating place to be, I know. But there is some upside to not having found success yet.

Pulling the cord

I know what it’s like to to be in a band that no one is interested in.

But almost every band went through that period. And if you’re interested in the history of bands, this can often be the most interesting phase of a band’s lifespan. They are hungry, they are excited, they are willing to change things up.

Cases in point: Early Grateful Dead is a lot of unstructured noise intermingled with R&B songs. Early Marvin Gaye was Motown. Early Bee Gees was psychedelic folk rock. Early Cure was keyboard-free new wave. Etc.

All of these bands are known for something entirely different these days.

When you are seeking success, it feels like you put in a lot of work for very little result. Hours spent in a room working on your art or your business, only to see an empty room when your event happens and no one shows.

I have personally performed in a band where at times during the gig, there was not a single person in the room aside from us, not even the sound person.

That can be a hard blow to recover from.

The engine catches

But then, if you’re lucky, something may eventually click.

A single that hits the charts. Crowds that start showing up. Good press. A viral video.

All of a sudden, people are watching you.

Assuming your art doesn’t crash like a one-hit wonder, you could then be in the position of having a fanbase, one that stays with you as you continue.

This can actually be a difficult position to be in for the exact opposite reason. Instead of people not caring about your art, now people might be fans no matter what you do. And you’re left to wonder if anything you do matters.

Maybe it’s a good problem to have, but it’s actually the same problem: people not recognizing you for the work you’re doing now.

What is your trajectory?

You can only be discovered once. You can only have your first hit once. You can only have your first bestseller once.

And once you’ve reached a point where people know you, where your work is being seen, appreciated, noticed, there is only one place to go from there: down.

It seems to me that to have tasted acknowledgement and success, only to see it slip away, must be even more painful.

Just like how Spinal Tap went from headlining arenas to being second billed under a puppet show. It happens in real life too.

And that, my friends, is why you might want to relish your current lack of success. Your best days are ahead of you. Everything is still possible. Your trajectory is upward. Stay hungry. Keep pulling that cord.

Mike Pumphrey

Mike Pumphrey

I'm the founder and author of Unlikely Radical, a site to help people succeed with money, achieve their goals, and live intentionally.

I offer a free phone consultation to anyone who is interested in changing their financial narrative. Are you ready? Click here for details.
Mike Pumphrey
Posted on March 16, 2017