You are 23, You Want to be Successful — Read This.
This article was written by a 20-something, who isn’t successful, but trying desperately to be — and I think that’s why it is valuable.
There is something to be said about learning from someone currently in your shoes, experiencing your struggles — versus from someone worth a couple billion, who struggled (once upon a time).
While sure, it is lovely to hear how they ultimately achieved their success… at the end of the day, they fall right asleep on their $10,000 mattress, while you are up at night mulling over how you’re going to pay the month’s rent.
I am a 23 year old self-taught creative copywriter, that is no further along than you — in the trenches, on the grind, trying to make it.
I am not on the top of the mountain, telling you how to climb up — I am right by your side, telling you how I think WE are going to get to the top.
And that my friend, is why this post is valuable.
1. Stop Scrolling
“Social Media was just the market’s answer to a generation that demanded to perform. So, the market said ‘here’, perform everything, to everyone, all the time, for no reason. It’s prison. It’s horrific. I know very little about anything, but what I do know is that if you can live your life without an audience, you should do it.”
— Bo Burnham
The average person spends 2 hours of their day scrolling through their social feeds. Over the course of a year, this adds up to 730 hours… or 30 days. You are spending an entire month out of every year scrolling, mindlessly, through social media.
If you were to spend these 730 hours selling lemonade from a lemonade stand for $5 an hour you would be spending your time more productively, because at least you would have $3,650 to show for it. I have a lot of opinions on social media, many of which you can hear by going here (pun intended).
2. Work on Your Craft Every Day
“The most important thing about art is to work. Nothing else matters except sitting down every day and trying.”
— Steven Pressfield
I don’t care if you are a wood whittler, a painter, a coder or a writer — success is only achieved through deliberate, consistent practice. If you want to become better at [fill in the blank], you have to be willing to work every single damn day of your life
Find a 1–2 hour window each day that you can spend perfecting your craft. If you work a 9–5, wake up a couple hours early and get your practice in before you start your day.
Make time for your craft on a daily basis — I can’t emphasize enough how important this is, you will not become better unless you submerge yourself in deeply focused, purposeful practice.
3. Be Patient
“All of human unhappiness comes from one single thing: not knowing how to remain at rest in a room.”
— Blaise Pascal
You are going to work your ass off at something you love every single day of your life, and chances are nothing is going to happen for 3–5 years.
You need to understand this, you need to accept this and you need to keep being patient. If you can’t wait until you are 28 years old to reap the rewards of your hard work, you aren’t doing something you are passionate about.
4. Stop Waiting for Your Big Break
“Shallow men believe in luck or in circumstance. Strong men believe in cause and effect.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
I have been alive for 23-years and I know of only one person that has ever gotten a big break. 99.99% of the time people don’t get ‘big breaks’.
I have interviewed some crazy successful people who make a lot of money and make a lot of difference in the world, and none of them have ever had a ‘big break’.
They became successful through everything I described in points two & three— deliberate practice and patience. You will not fall in the .01% that gets lucky, so get out and make your own luck.
5. Create The Life You Want, Stop Following Someone Else’s
“Sometimes I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living.”
— Jonathan Safran Foer
I have always been a sucker for a damn good Instagram account. As a creative, I have a habit of falling in love with pretty pictures. There have been times where I have found myself spending too much time admiring other people’s lives on social media, wasting valuable time I could be spending on my own. Social media is responsible for creating a lot of dreams and killing just as many.
Every second you spend thinking about what someone else has is taking away from the time and energy you could spend creating something for yourself.
6. Stop Caring About What Other People Think
“My dear, I don’t give a damn.”
— Margaret Mitchell
When I was first starting out, trying to make a career as a professional writer, I had a creative director email me a shitty condescending note that said —
“I would stop writing about topics like depression and anxiety. Cool. It drives 20-something traffic, but it isn’t going to land professional brands, they won’t have much faith in you.”
I used to allow notes like this to obliterate my confidence, but now I take a deep breath and let it go.
When you believe in your mission and are passionate about the change you want to see happen in the world, you stop caring about what other people think about you.
My writing is vulnerable because I want to be that conversation for the person who is struggling — the person who is struggling in their relationshp, struggling with their anxiety, struggling with their work and struggling to see their potential.
I am fighting for something much bigger than one person’s opinion.
You should be too.
7. Force Yourself to Suck at Your Passion
“It’s better to be in the arena, getting stomped by the bull, than to be up in the stands or out in the parking lot.”
— Steven Pressfield
If you were to have watched me go through basketball drills in my driveway while I was growing up, it would have been painful.
I would dribble two basketballs, and pound them against the concrete until one of them went flying off my foot or off the opposing ball.
Sometimes one would take a weird pop off the concrete and strike me in my fingertips, ripping the flesh between my finger nails.
The pooling blood would then decorate the basketball as I continued on — harder, harder and harder. Each time dribbling harder and faster than the time before. When I would get done with my drills, my hands would be as black as the asphalt and my shoulders, wrists and fingers would throb.
When I practiced, I practiced so hard that I sucked — always forcing myself to perform 10% faster than a speed I was comfortable at.
That is how I got good at basketball, I forced myself to suck. It is the same way I plan to get good at writing, too.
By Cole Schafer