Keys to Success (feat. The Trolling Agneses)

“Action is the foundational key to all success.” – Pablo Picasso

If you search Google for “the keys to success,” you’ll get about 126,403 different sites, all lending advice on a variety of ways to succeed. Some sites address money, others eating and diet, and some will discuss networking or encourage exercise.  

They’re all correct, in the context of what they are defining success to be. And to what our expectation of what “success” is, we personalize and customize it to fit our needs and desires.
Being successful isn’t about wealth, a perfect body, having a large family, or being the most popular. It’s about that feeling inside ourselves that perpetuates calm, radiates joy, and exudes peace of mind to everyone around.
I used to tell my students that “if you want to be cool, be calm.”  

There’s basic keys to finding that kind of success, that can even cross over into other forms of success, as well. For me, I reflect on these regularly and benefit from them, daily. Hopefully, you may find something useful in them:

Agnes surrounded by like-minded people.

1. Surround Yourself with Like-Minded People 

In my work as an artist and designer, I work alone. I draw inspiration from what’s around me, the internet, or personal experience. It can be difficult to self-motivate. Recognizing others with the same interests, directions, or passions as myself is vital to growing as an artist and designer, but more importantly as a person. 

Spending time with like-minded friends is like recharging low batteries. Getting actual feedback instead of the single, stream-of-concsiousness thoughts of myself can be humbling, rewarding, and so beneficial to my work.

Agnes realized the problem was the saw was out of tune.

2. Turn Overwhelming Problems into Challenges to Overcome 

Yeah, we all get smacked with things that hold us down. My old car used to burden me with expensive repairs. My friend deals with chronic illness. A former co-worker is miserable in her living situation. Seeing the negative impact of overwhelming problems is often debilitating. But, finding a way to rearrange the thinking, change the perspective, and apply a creative way to address problems can lead them to be nothing more than challenges to overcome… tasks to be completed. 

It’s all in the way they are perceived.
I went to the same garage for 10 years, routinely. So, when my repair bills were too high, I made an arrangement with the garage to accept monthly payments in exchange for referrals, promotion on social media, and to make payments on time. They agreed and while I was never late with a payment, the garage got 5-6 new customers based on my recommendations. 

It’s not always easy to look at things differently, especially when held down, but staying calm, looking at the back of the situation, and asking for help or advice can certainly aid in seeing things more clearly and positively.

Agnes was dreadfully concerned about of what they may think.

3. Don’t Be the Victim 

Whenever I talk to myself, I find I always start off negatively. That’s my brain trying to process out the anxiety and disorder of my thoughts so it can reveal a rational, logical approach. 
But sometimes, a heavy situation doesn’t resolve too quickly, and I’ll find myself being the “victim” of someone else’s decisions or actions. Negative thoughts clog the processing, and I can’t get past it. 

“Talk with yourself and you’ll hear what you want to know.” – Aerosmith 

My sister once yelled at me, “it’s not all about you!” while I yelled back, “it’s not all about you, either!” We were both right, but saw ourselves as the victims, self-absorbed in our own irrational mucky muck, unable to recognize we were playing the role. As an adult, as soon as I start talking to myself and hearing negative words form, like “I hate when,” “that stupid,” or “this sucks,” I recognize and redirect myself from being the victim by remembering all the positive and good things I have to be grateful for, even when I don’t want to. 

Despite everything, Agnes was pleased.

4. Smile – Even If You Don’t Want To 

The act of smiling, alone, can be the starting point in changing a sour mood to an upbeat mood. 
At my local grocery store, I’ve seen how a person’s nasty mood can affect the cashier, who then, unknowingly, puts it on me. 

The old phrase, “attitudes are contagious,” is true in my opinion.
I try to always bring a smile, even when I don’t feel like it, because I know that when my smile gets someone else to smile back, it’s going to create a positive connection, before we even speak. And I’ve found the benefits to making someone smile far outweigh the difficulties of making someone scowl. 

Agnes was tired of being compared to Agnes.

5. Don’t Compare Yourself To Others

I admit, I’m guilt. I’ve written before about getting down on my art, seeing another artist or designer that is just SO good, it makes me want to quit and go back to cleaning toilets for a living. Yes, I once cleaned toilets.  

I see others and make a direct comparison to myself. “They’ve got more hair,” or “they’re younger than me.” Taking it personal that someone drives a BMW and I don’t is just silly. It usually means they have higher car payments. As for hair, well, I had long hair when I was young – long, curly, awesome hair! I miss it, sure, but I had fun with it. 

Many people never took time in their youth to have fun like that, and now compensate with other things that I find myself caught in comparing. In reality, it’s all stuff and doesn’t matter. I love who I’ve become, where I came from, and where I’m going. Getting past the comparison to others and focusing on myself is what matters. 

Agnes often needed that little extra push.

6. Give Others a Push To Succeed

Every now and again, I get a call from my old friend who asks, “so, what are you working on?” When I describe it, he usually challenges me, “well, why haven’t you finished it yet?” 

The conversation can go on for a long time, but in the end, I always come away inspired and motivated. In return, when I call him, I will pose the same questions, often challenging him in a different way, but for the same results.

We all need that extra little push, especially when we work alone or on an independent project. When there’s no one there to provide feedback, offer insight, give a constructive critique, or even point out minor inconsistencies, then we tend to accept our work – whether it’s in the yard, on a drawing board, onscreen, in a display, or in the kitchen – as being the end-all that is “good enough.” 

I know for myself and my work, I am exceptionally self-critical. I want everything to be perfect before it goes out, but sometimes, it just has to get out the door. Having someone behind me, giving me support, makes it easier.

So, as I mentioned, there are so many ways to find success in specific ways. But, there are some basic keys to finding root success in life, on a more personal level, to help stay positive, keep things in perspective, and apply creative thinking to find new, unexplored solutions or ways of doing things. 

I hope this was helpful! 

Love & cheers!