“The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it.” – Michaelangelo-
A slightly-perverted universal-truth is that great successes almost always occur against a backdrop of ridiculously-bad odds.
Because, if it wasn’t so unlikely or so hard, everyone would be doing it and it wouldn’t be considered such a great or unusual achievement. Life is one big risk. Seemingly daunting statistics and odds swarm all around us.
Consider the following:
- Ninety-five percent of new businesses fail within 5-years.
- Ninety-nine percent of all professional-speakers earn less than $1 million in their entire careers.
- Eighty percent of restaurants fail within two years.
- Ninety-nine percent of people trying out for a role in TV, theater or film will not get the job.
- Ninety percent of law-students don’t make Law Review.
Everywhere you look, life’s deck seems stacked against success…if you choose to see if that way. What if, though, you looked at each of those stats not from the standpoint not of failure, but of opportunity?
In every statistic above, somebody succeeded, sometimes on a massive scale.
Someone landed the million-dollar job. Someone created the desktop-computer after IBM said there’d never be a need. Someone got the role of a lifetime in the show of their dreams. Someone scored a date with their dream partner. Someone locked in funding for the venture of a lifetime. Someone started a movement destined to change the lives of millions.
If the odds are 100 to one and 100,000 people try, that means 99,000 fail, but 1,000 succeed. Somebody’s got to be in that group of 1,000, don’t you think it should be you?
And, here’s something really cool, the higher the perceived odds of failure, the more people will be scared away, leaving the super-motivated and unusually-well equipped people like you with an even greater chance of success.
My book, Career Renegade, is the perfect example.
A few years ago, I committed to reallocating some of my energy from lifestyle-entrepreneurship to two emerging passions, writing and speaking. What I didn’t reveal to anyone, though, was a more ambitious, private aspiration–to write a book. By all rights, I had no business setting my sights so high. I had written a handful of articles for various magazines and even self-published a book a long time ago (sold 7 copies…or 2, if you don’t count the 5 my mom bought).
But, now I was talking about a “real” book. A book that someone else would actually pay me to write. I had a growing platform in the lifestyle and yoga world, but I wanted to write about conscious-careers, success and entrepreneurship. Who did I think I was, anyway?
If you google how to write and publish a non-fiction book, the first thing you’ll learn is that it’s impossible. You need an agent and agents get hammered with thousands of query letters a month and only take a handful of new clients each year. Then you need a publisher, who will only take you as a first-time author if you’ve got a massive public presence, celebrity status and connections up the whazzoo.
Then, even, if you get a deal, you’ll have to go with a small, bootstrapped operation, most likely based out of a shack in Appalachia, get a ridiculously-small advance, if any, that’ll mean you’ll have to keep working your day job and somehow figure out how to write an entire book under deadline in your precious little downtime for the equivalent of $1 an hour.
The wisdom on the street is—nobody gets a big deal with a great publisher and a killer advance first-time out of the gate. Don’t even bother. The odds are a million-to-one! Pretty scary process. I mean, with odds like those, why bother trying?!
Because, odds are for suckers!
More often than not, they’re there to weed out the people who don’t want it badly enough, won’t get creative enough or are trapped in the need to provide a rational basis for never trying.
Nothing grand in work or life was ever achieved by following the odds. For every rule, there is always an exception and damned if it can’t be you!
Here’s what unfolded in the months that followed my secret aspiration. By late Spring, I had come up with a book idea. I had many before, but, somehow, this one was different. I quickly crafted a proposal. Then I went through the process of querying a handful of top agents in NYC. My dream list. These were the people I was always told not to even bother with. But, I figured, it can’t hurt to try.
Plus, as you might have guessed, I’ve never been one to follow the rules.
Within a week, I had requests for proposals from half a dozen top-agents. Over the next two days came offers of representation from three and more were calling every-day to request proposals. I followed my gut and signed with someone who I felt got me best. It was pure intuition. Now, it was time to see if the publishers would bite. According to internet lore, even with an agent, someone like me should be a near impossible sell.
Again with the odds.
Two weeks later, with the proposal tweaked, my agent began talking to a handful of top NY publishing houses. I asked how the long the process might take. She told me it could take anywhere form a few weeks to months or even years. Ten days later, I signed with my dream publisher and editor. And the book that came out of it wasn’t even the book I pitched.
I then spent the next two years working my butt off to write the hell out of the book, build a new community online that would support it and conjure up all sorts of seemingly undoable tactics and strategies to pre-sell, then launch the book. And, when it finally hit the street (in the worst moment in economic history since the Great Depression and the worse 6 months in the history of publishing), everyone stepped up and supported it…to the tune of driving it to #1 in it’s category on amazon…nearly 2 months before it was even published.
Why do you care? Because, for my entire life, people have been telling me “you can’t do that,” and for most of that time, I’ve been doing just that. We all have this voice inside that says believe the nay-sayers, wait for permission, why try when your odds of success are so small and the opportunity for public humiliation so high?
Screw the naysayers!
Listening to this voice kills so many dreams. It stops us from doing what is in our hearts, because someone else doesn’t think we should be able to succeed at something grand and unusual.
Thing is, every second of every day, someone who should never have beaten the odds does.
So, why can’t someone that be you?
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