How to Create Work So Good, Other Professionals Recognize You As One of Their Own
A professional recognizes another.
“A professional is someone who can still do his best work when he doesn’t feel like it.” -Alistair Cook
As the old saying goes, “game respects game.”
The pros know their own people when they see them.
That was always the goal for my writing: to be recognized by other world-class writers and accepted into their club, to be recognized as one of their own.
I’ve been able to do this (to some degree), and it feels like things are finally clicking after years of trying. When you reach a high enough level of success, you’re drawn to others like you, and they’re drawn to you.
It’s not business, it’s personal — we like to hang around other people who get it. Bryan Cranston once explained how he became such great friends with Tom Hanks; neither of them were intimidated or scared of the other’s success. They were both among the top men in Hollywood — they had nothing to prove or be jealous about! They could just be themselves, which is rare for someone at that level.
If you want to be recognized by your idols operating at a world-class level, then you need to get on their level. It starts with putting in a huge body of work.
First, Create a Huge Body of Work
One of my hobbies is playing video games, and one of my favorite video games is Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. It’s a fighting game, where you play one-on-one against other players around the world.
I’ve put in nearly 1,000 hours into this game — practicing, studying, and getting better. I’ve reached around the top 1% in the world. I’d go to tournaments and usually place in the top ten most of the time. I’d only need to watch you play for a few seconds to know how good of a player you are.
To reach this level, I needed to create a huge body of work — to play my ass off, and to play a gazillion times. There are about 80 different characters in the game, each with unique moves. I needed to learn the matchup and know how every character plays, so I could always beat anyone I played.
It’s funny — I noticed whenever I’d go to tournaments, I’d end up chatting with the top players, comparing notes, becoming friends with them.
We knew the other had also put in a thousand hours.
I did the same for my writing. Before, I was a no-name blogger with a dinky website. Nobody even responded to my countless emails, pitches, or connection requests.
Now that I’ve reached some moderate success as a writer, I’ve become friends with lots of best-selling authors and writers who make way more money than I do. They have much larger audiences and far bigger networks than me.
But I still know who they are, the work they’ve put in. They’ve put in an enormous body of work, and so I have I. One of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in my writing career was going to a writing conference and people coming up to me, asking me, “Are you Anthony Moore? I love your work!” Actual fans! Of me! I was a nobody!
If you want to become friends with high-level influencers, mentors, and the world-class people in your industry, it’ll take some time. If you want any hope of becoming friends with them, you need to create a huge body of work in your industry.
Famed entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk was once asked by a young entrepreneur how to be a successful writer. Vaynerchuk instructed him to write every day for five years, then come back to him.
Learn the ropes. Do the work, over and over again. See the mistakes others have made. Make your own mistakes.
Before you try to meet anyone, put in a ton of work first.
Invest in Mentors and Play Against Tough Competition
In my twenties, I secretly believed that if I really, really wanted to, I could probably get a spot on an NBA team.
I believed if I practiced at my local park hard enough, for long enough, eventually I could make the cut. I knew I wouldn’t be a star or anything; but I could be a benchwarmer.
Well, I now know how silly that is, for two key reasons:
First, current NBA players have the best mentors in the world. Their coaches and trainers are second-to-none. One coaching lesson from them is 100x better than any coaching I could get locally.
Second, current NBA players practice against the toughest competition in the world, every single day. One practice for them is 100x better than any practice I could get at a local park.
You probably won’t become the literal #1 spot in your field, but you don’t have to. You just have to get good enough to move forward.
You can reach that level by heavily investing in the best mentors and the toughest competition possible.
These mentors have already made all the mistakes there is to make, and are natural teachers. I’ve read a ton of autobiographies from some of the world’s most successful and famous people, and I keep noticing that these people spent enormous time and energy learning from high-level mentors.
- Kevin Hart learned from Dave Chapelle and Chris Rock.
- Tina Fey apprenticed under the famed TV writer Lorne Michaels.
- Socrates apprenticed under Aristotle
Even non-celebrities do this. Nicolas Cole apprenticed as an assistant under a his company’s CEO (no one else wanted the job). Ryan Holiday started working for best-selling author Robert Greene. They saw an opportunity to learn, and took it.
If you look at low-level players, in almost every case they haven’t invested in getting a mentor. There’s only so much you can do yourself before you hit a ceiling.
Many people spend years trying to figure it all out themselves, when they could learn the world’s secrets by just asking someone who already knows the answer.
The Time Amateurs Spend Being Jealous is Time Professionals Spent Working
“Time you spent being jealous of others’ success is time they spent working.” -John Westenberg
If you want to get recognized by other professionals, you don’t have time to be jealous.
As Stephen Pressfield wrote in Turning Pro: “The amateur tweets. The pro works.”
I’m in a slack channel with the top writers of Medium. The platform’s top writers tell jokes, give advice, listen, and commiserate, every day.
But no one spends time being jealous.
We’re all too serious at what we do. We’re professionals. Jealousy is for amateurs; work is for professionals.
Instead of wasting away in mediocrity playing the comparison game, choose to spend that time working on yourself instead.
I once heard being jealous and resentful is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. I thought that was an eerily accurate description.
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve heard on this topic was four simple words:
“Stay in your lane.
It doesn’t matter how much faster they’re going. It doesn’t matter how much faster you’re going. If you keep looking at other lanes, you’re going to crash.
Focus on you. Learn all you can. Experiment, fail, discover what works.
Soon, you’ll build momentum. And one day, you’ll look around you, and marvel at just how damn fast you’re going.
Cut out jealousy. Spend all your spare time learning and growing.
“If your lifestyle does not add to your healing, it will subtract from it.” -Benjamin Foley
Jim Rohn once wrote, “It’s human tendency to blame someone or something else for our lack of progress.” It’s easy to slip into a negative mindset defined by resentment and blaming others to make us feel better.
But professionals don’t blame others. They work, and dedicate themselves to learning their craft like Picasso learned painting or Ronald McDonald learned how to make cheap burgers. They eventually mastered their craft, and started getting recognized for their dedication.
Professionals recognize dedication. If you’ve put in 1,000 hours towards something, you’re going to attract people who’ve put in the same work. You’ll also repel others that haven’t.
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