You don’t ‘make it’ — it makes you.

I always wanted to make it. I grew up dreaming about being a rockstar, and in that paradigm, you’ve made it when you’re on TV, when you sell albums, when you have fans who give a shit, when you make it into the top 10. In that paradigm, there’s a point in your life where your work has paid off and you can be happy. When everything changes “for the better.”

I know I had an idea in my head around what it would look like when I’d made it. When I signed my record deal, I thought, that would be the moment, when I’d put that ink on the paper and scrawled my ridiculous excuse for a signature.

You know what it felt like when it happened? No different. It didn’t feel different for a moment, and it didn’t change my life, not in any big way. And a few years later, when it all fell apart and we were dropped from the label, that didn’t change my life either.

I spent a lot of my teenage years gunning for the moment when I’d make it, and in all that time, I think I missed the entire point. The work I did was all aiming at reaching one level where it’d be worth it. Instead of focusing 0n doing it for myself, doing it for the love of it, doing it for the people who enjoyed my music, all I gave a shit about was doing it so that one day I would be a big deal.

But you don’t make it, in life. You don’t make it in business, or in music, or as an artist. You never make it. It makes you. The struggle, the trying, the striving and fighting and building, it makes you into something far beyond what you thought you were going to be. And you don’t always like it, but you can’t ever stop it.

You don’t make it, because you think making it means having your life change and having your past self shattered.


I want to go back to an old theme of mine, something I love talking about. It’sthe difference between being, and doing. The difference between caring about what you do, and caring about what you’ll be. The hardest part of accomplishing anything is always getting through what must be gotten through. Doing the work that sits on your list for weeks on end, and ticking off the jobs that you hated doing.

That’s what builds the world, is the day to day crap that must be done.The day to do stuff that you can’t avoid, and can’t pretend isn’t bearing down on you with all the weight it can muster.

We kid ourselves into believing that if we made it, our lives and our experiences would change. We’d go from having to do, to just enjoying being. As if, when we make it to a certain level, it’s all fairy dust and flights of fantasy and bottles of Moat.

But 80% of this thing we call living is about doing the every day things. It’s about the work, and the sacrificed-for moments of play. It’s really about cooking dinner, and feeding the cat, and snatching a few seconds to kiss the person you love before they rush out the door trailing scarves and notebooks and debris. That stuff makes us. It makes us into people with connections and a search history.

80% of growing the company you’re dreaming about, or building a career as a musician or an entrepreneur is about doing the every day things too. It’s going to be about waking up and reading emails, and having to do things you don’t care about.

You have to try to care though. You have to try to care about some of this stuff,try to care about the things that you do when you don’t feel like a winner.Because even if you do reach that far away goal that you’ve been dreaming about, your life is still going to contain the same amount of day-to-do honest crap as before — if not twice as much.

Your idols still have to reply to messages that suck, and work when they’re tired and do most of the same things you do. By your standards, they’ve probably made it. But the road they’re on is still making them, forming them, teaching and pushing and pulling them.

If you keep pushing to the point where you’ll feel like you’ve made it, life is going to make you into whatever it wants just the same. There’s no way around that. But you might reach the end point and ask yourself what’s left and what’s next, if all you’ve strived for feels like all you’ve lived before.

There’s a lyric I love from Jimmy Eat World, a band I’ve been listening to for years. They said, “there’s still some living left, when your time comes and goes.”

They’re right. There’s a still a lot of living left. A lot of stuff to get through, and you’re going to need to have the energy and love and appreciation for your work that your road calls for. If you’ve put the sum of your efforts into a single moment that you want to reach, you’re going to be kicking yourself in the guts if you ever get there.

You can still be a dreamer, but you can’t let those dreams depend on a point of success and happiness. You have to let them be dreams about doing things, not being. This is kind of paradoxical, and it’s nothing easy at all. In fact, just wrapping your head around it could take a lifetime, and you might not even agree with me yet.

But I believe I’m right. I believe doing is what counts, not being. I believe that there’s no such thing as making it, there’s just a long road that you walk the same way no matter how big you get.


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I’m the founder of Creatomic.

I’m Jon Westenberg. I’m a serial failure, a law school drop out, and a passionate creative. I started my first company at 18, walking off the grill of a McDonald’s to create a music management company. Since then, I’ve worked with startups, spoken at events across the globe, won and lost a record deal and kept moving forward with one idea: life isn’t about staying up. It’s about getting up when you fall down. I founded Creatomic, a top blog and coaching company.

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