Penn Jillette (from Penn & Teller) and a Hollywood executive producer named Mark Burnett (creator of TV shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, etc.) were among the people who spoke at the various keynotes during the 2010 Blogworld Expo. Both of them, when asked how they achieved their success, essentially gave the same answer: I just did it.
They aren’t the first VERY successful people whom I’ve heard say this. In fact, I’ve heard it so often that it makes me feel like an idiot.
“I don’t know…I just did it?” Ha, that easy, eh?
On the other hand, I’ve heard from the next couple of levels down. These are the people who aren’t quite there. They have to always pitch themselves. They’ve had some semblance of success. They’ve gathered a larger-than-average pool of Twitter followers, whatever. They appear at conferences and seminars too, pushing their new blog/site/business, begging for followers/retweets, handing out “buy my stuff” swag. They have theories and coin phrases. And while they’re being recognized for their successes at certain venues, they haven’t “made it” by many long shots.
When these “almost but not quite” people talk about success, they recount the thousands of ways they expand their influence. They recount formulas for maximizing viewership. They talk about selling ads, Excel spreadsheets, projections, ad-words, keywords. They’re always self promoting. They’re always working. They claw success and fame from life like a starving farmer ekes his years from poor soil.
So there seems to be something else in the works. It seems that hard work only takes you so far when it comes to influence. Some people just have it. Some have to fake it.
Perhaps it’s like Shakespeare (and what isn’t?) “…some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.” It’s like there’s a marked difference between the genuine achievers and influentials in the world and the rich guys you see in pyramid scheme late-night commercials.
However, it also makes me think of something Abe Lincoln said (and what doesn’t?) “…give me six hours to cut down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
Maybe the major successes of the world have something else they do? Maybe it’s something that’s so ingrained in their behaviors and dispositions, that it just seems like common sense to them?
Hell if I know what it is outright, but I’d like to think they know how to listen—they know where to apply their limited force on the world and cause a shift.
Penn talked about adapting and learning different skills and doing different things as he saw them. Mark talked about hearing different ideas and going with ones he thought were compelling. There seemed to be a lot of “Wait, then act” motifs to their life stories.
…which flies in the face of the “always on, sell, sell, sell” obnoxiously aggressive sales approach I hear from others.
So maybe, instead of asking the Penns and Marks of the world, “How do I get to be as famous as you?”, we should ask, “What do you value and how do you pursue it?”
Seems like one of those, “It’s the journey, not the destination,” sorts of things. And that’s cool, as I’m all for naturally accruing influence in life. Scheming and following formulas to mine fame comes across as disingenuous.