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How often have you caught yourself reading about someone else's success and thinking "wow, they make it look so easy" or "yup, they seem like they have it made." Perhaps you feel a sense of envy, jealousy, or even resentment.
Not you? Then perhaps you've caught yourself wondering about whether you're doing enough to call yourself a success. The things you've worked hard to earn don't seem like enough and you can't help but compare yourself against someone who has more, does more, is heard more, or who makes more money. Maybe it is a friend, colleague, family member. But they seem like they have it so easy, and that they always catch the lucky breaks. They're successful; but are you?
If you don't fall into either of those categories then I envy you. Your self-confidence, high self-esteem, and ambition are to be admired. But I know for certain that I am a person who falls into both of the above categories.
I mean, I'm a 22-year-old bloke who is connected on every form of social media. I see athletes and celebrities on social media all the time who make more for one Instagram post than I do in an entire year. Let alone the fact that—from the naive outsider's perspective that I have—the enjoyment that those people seem to have for the work that they do makes it clear that they're fulfilled and can consider themselves successful without any hesitation. Of course, there is always more than meets the eye, but the effect on me as a consumer and/or reader is to immediately compare myself to what I see, which usually leaves me wanting.
I'm also in the final stretches of my law degree. If ever there was something to foster an environment of comparing yourself to others, it is that of a law degree. First, most of the people in a law degree are intelligent and ambitious people who are competitive by nature. Second, the draconian and infamous recruitment process of recruiting graduate lawyers (which I, of course, accept is part of the game we play as law students) is hyper-competitive. Not only must you become a master of highlighting your own successes and your own brilliance, but you must also be cognisant of the thousands of other people doing the same thing around you. If this process doesn't bring you to the brink of contemplating everything you've accomplished and comparing it against your own standards and, inevitably, the standards of others, almost nothing will.
That process of introspection and reflection led me to make a ton of changes in my life. Above all I learned to build the things that I want to be doing around my life, and not the other way around. And the anxiety, pressure and stress which I had real issues with in my late teens began to fall away. I became more confident in myself because I knew I was doing the things that I wanted to be doing. And when you do what you love, showing up and putting in an effort becomes effortless.
And this is where I learned the simplicity of success. And I think that it can be distilled to three really simple principles.
- Success cannot be something that other people define for you.
- Your view of your success is not a measure of your worth. It is a measure of your achievements. All wins, big and little, are your successes and you should be proud to boast them.
- You'd be amazed how far being polite and putting in effort will get you.
The third principle in that list is bolded for a reason. Because I've learned through my journey (albeit a relatively short one) as an ambitious over-achiever with a habit of biting off more than I can chew that if there's one thing I'm good at, it's being polite and putting in an effort. I'm never the smartest person in a room, I'm never the most talented person in a room, and often I'm not the most noticeable person in a room. But frankly, all of those traits are things that I've found are ancillary to good manners, a kind and polite demeanour, and a hard-working attitude. The opportunities that I've been fortunate to experience as a co-founder of a social enterprise, as a law student, as an employee, and as a person are just because I'm polite and I work hard.
Remember to smile. Thank people. Don't ever take things for granted. Be humble. Work hard. Put in an effort.
You'll never be surprised how far it takes you.