We've been fans of Neil Pasricha for years. As author of the blog of 1,000 Awesome Things, Neil began chronicling something he appreciated each day. Since he has grown to be one of our favorite self-development/business authors, going beyond platitudes and sharing page turning stories and lessons in his numerous bestsellers.
Below is an excerpt from his new book: You Are Awesome. It's a heartfelt book on cultivating resilience, spending your time more wisely, and becoming a happier human.
Nolan Ryan, Seth Godin, And The Counterintuitive Way To Building Resilience And Developing More Long-Term Success
When I was a little kid, my dad bought me The Complete Major League Baseball Statistics, a frayed paperback with a green cover. I treasured it and kept it in my room for years. I flipped through it so many times.
As I paged through the numbers, I started to notice something interesting.
Cy Young had the most wins of all time in baseball (511).
Cy Young had the most losses, too (316).
Nolan Ryan had the most strikeouts (5,714).
Nolan Ryan had the most walks, too (2,795).
Why would the guy with the most wins also have the most losses? Why would the guy with the most strikeouts also have the most walks?
They just played the most.
They just tried the most.
They just moved through loss the most.
Sometimes the whole thing really comes down to quantity over quality.
Have you ever asked an incredible wedding photographer how they capture such perfect moments? I have. And they all say the same thing: “I just take way more pictures. I’ll take a thousand pictures over a three-hour wedding. That’s a picture every ten seconds. Of course I’m going to have fifty good ones. I’m throwing nine hundred fifty pictures away to find them!”
Sometimes I’m doing a Q&A after a speech and someone puts their hand up and asks a question along the lines of “So, congratulations on the success of The Book of Awesome. My question is: How do I get paid millions to write about farting in elevators?”
The question is along the lines of saying “So you won the lottery. How do I win the lottery?”
I always answer the same way, with a reply I stole from Todd Hanson, former head writer at The Onion. He was interviewed by Mike Sacks for the book And Here’s the Kicker: Conversations with 21 Top Humor Writers on Their Craft. He said that whenever he’s asked the smart-ass question “So how do I get a job writing jokes for money like you did?” he gives a very simple answer.
“Do it for free for ten years.”
See, we’re surrounded by tales of instant millions and lightning-fast growth and tiny startups sold to Google for billions of dollars two months after they launched. We keep clicking links promising the “seven 30-second hacks to get a six-pack in 21 days.” We’re desperate to pull back the curtain on Oz, but what we want to find—quick fixes, easy answers, shortcuts—isn’t there.
We don’t want to hear that some things just take time. They just take time. It’s not about the number of hits but rather the number of times you step up to the plate.
How do you know if you’re going the right way?
Just ask three questions:
Am I gaining experience?
Will these experiences help?
Can I afford stay on this path for a while?
Sometimes the answer will be no. Sometimes the answer will
be yes. But the answers will help point out the fact that you are learning, you are doing, you may be failing, but you’re moving . . .
Seth Godin is the bestselling author of nineteen books including Purple Cow, Linchpin, and Tribes. He writes one of the most popular blogs in the world and routinely speaks at places like TED.
Seth offers similar advice in an interview he did on The Tim Ferriss Show: “The number of failures I’ve had dramatically exceeds most people’s, and I’m super proud of that. I’m more proud of the failures than the successes because it’s about this mantra of ‘Is this generous? Is this going to connect? Is this going to change people for the better? Is it worth trying?’ If it meets those criteria and I can cajole myself into doing it, then I ought to.”
Seth did another interview with Jonathan Fields on the popular self-help podcast Good Life Project. He said, “I’m a big fan of poof.” What’s poof? The idea that you try and if it’s not working—poof. You try something else.
Don’t get me wrong. I want it to succeed! I’d like to talk about You Are Awesome and the ideas it contains in interviews and meet people whose lives were helped or who shifted or evolved in a meaningful way through this conversation. I want for that. I wish for that!
But I can’t determine that.
All I get to do is take more pictures.
All I get to do is whatever I do right now and whatever I do next.
And that’s the point.
I have to keep going with my next book, my next talk, my next project, my next whatever, whether this one is a hit or a poof.
You need to keep going, too.
What do I know about thickening our skin and working our way up to awesome?
Well, one thing I know is that we need to stop looking at successful people as if we’re looking at products of success. At success after success. Because you know what we’re really looking at? People who are just really good at moving through failures.
Moving through failures is the real success.
Building resilience is the real success.
The failures and the losses are part of the process for anyone who is willing to try. All successful people swim in ponds of failure. They swallow and choke on failure. They’re covered in gobs of failure. They have failure in their hair and under their fingernails.
So what’s the real goal?
Be like the T-1000.
Do you remember the liquid metal bad guy from Terminator 2? Take a bullet to your shoulder. Take a bullet to your thigh. Let it heal over quickly as you tighten your menacing smile and keep walking forward and forward. Watch out for vats of molten steel in the middle of the abandoned warehouse! Those really could kill you.
But fortunately there aren’t too many of those around.
Cy Young also has the most losses.
Nolan Ryan also has the most walks.
Todd Hanson says “Do it for free for ten years.”
And wedding photographers just take more pictures.
The most counterintuitive way to building more resilience and long-term success is remember it’s not how many home runs you hit that counts.
It’s how many at-bats you take.
The wins pile up when you increase the number of times you step up to the plate.