Some of you who write me need to understand something or you are going to have a lot of disappointment in your future. Just because you are smart, just because you have talent, doesn’t mean anything. Your business, your career, your efforts can be left in the dust by someone who is driven to succeed, is passionate, and willing to give people what they want, yet lacks your natural ability.
The 50 Shades series by E.L. James is one of the most godawful, terrible pieces of literary trash ever to have been penned. Yet she actually did it. She put in the effort. She spent thousands of hours writing the manuscripts. As a result, brilliant English majors in Ivy League schools are starving and she is earning $1,000,000 a week.
The lesson is a simple one: An okay finished product is always superior to a theoretically perfect concept.
Had E.L. James had spent her days comparing herself to much more talented writers, worrying about how she was never going to stack up, she never would have finished her books. She wasn’t really a writer. She was just penning Twilight fan fiction with a bondage theme and changed the names from “Bella” and “Edward”. It’s so bad you’d almost believe it is satire, but that’s the truth.
If you are constantly talking about how you aren’t living up to your potential, look around at your life and try to identify your body of work. What have you produced? What have you created? What can you point to and say, “There! That is mine. I did that.”?
Many things should have come to mind. I have millions of words, pumping out very large sums of money, some of which I wrote when I was 18 years old. I have private businesses I started from nothing. I have intellectual rights from software platforms I developed that pay me money each year. The universe did not come down and bestow these things on me simply because I am smart.
If you don’t have anything, stop complaining and go do something. No matter how intelligent you are, you won’t get what you want if you haven’t done anything worthy of societal respect, recognition, wealth, or admiration. Every morning when you get out of bed, you need to be thinking about building your body of work.
Personally, I recommend choosing things that are cumulative, like an annuity stream. For example, Warren Buffett paid $25 million for See’s Candies 40+ years ago and has already collected $1 to $2 billion in profit from it. His efforts made decades before I was born are still paying dividends (literally, in this case). If I owned a construction company, I’d be working on building my own rental units, rather than just doing one-off jobs for other people. The latter results in a one-time paycheck; I’d rather get money for the rest of my life.
What you do matters as much as what you know. You cannot have one side of the equation without the other. The world will be perfectly happy to let you waste your life, never achieve anything, and die unknown without accomplishment if you choose that for yourself. Nobody but you can stop you from self-destruction or squandering the gifts that you did nothing to earn.
None of us are entitled to anything but what we are willing to go out and seize for ourselves. You parents won’t do it, your friends won’t do it; you have to picture the life you want and make it happen, choice by choice, strategically. It will not accidentally fall into place.