How do we get what we want in work and in life? That question drives many of our habits and behaviors and has turned countless of books, workshops, seminars, and retreats promising the answer to that very question into a billion dollar industry. We are given thousand different pieces of advice promising us the path to getting what we want, most of which involve overcoming our fears and persevering through setbacks. And in addition to external obstacles, we also tend to set up our own obstacles, thinking all that could go wrong or creating reasons we’re incapable of accomplishing a goal. With all these obstacles, sometimes we forget that the path to success may be simpler than we realize.
Many successful people in a range of professions advanced their careers in creative and unorthodox ways. Here are four inspiring success stories from people who made their own luck.
David Brooks – Writer, author, and political commentator
He began writing a humor column for the school paper at the University of Chicago. He learned that author William F. Buckley was visiting the campus, so Brooks sent the author a parody of his memoir and added a note that read: “Some would say I’m envious of Mr. Buckley. But if truth be known, I just want a job and have a peculiar way of asking. So how about it, Billy? Can you spare a dime?” Author Buckley announced during his lecture at the university “David Brooks, if you’re in the audience, I’d like to give you a job.”
Sometimes it’s just as easy as asking for what we want, regardless of what our mind is telling us the answer will be.
Sally Field – Oscar winning actress
Even famous, Oscar winners have to fight to land a role they knew was meant for them. Field did a screen test for Steven Spielberg and he refused her for the part saying she was “not right”. Field convinced her soon to be leading man, Daniel Day-Lewis, to fly to LA from Ireland (just for the day) to improv with her in full costume for Spielberg. What happened? Well, she nailed it. In Sally’s own words “To actually become Mary, I had to demand that they didn’t walk away.”
Sometimes we have to demand for people to not walk away until we can prove them we are the right choice for the job.
Anderson Cooper – ABC News anchor
Anderson began his media career as a fact checker for Channel One, which only broadcasts in schools. Cooper had just received his degree in political science from Yale but got bored pretty quickly with the position he had. Rather than stay put where he was, he took his video camera to Southeast Asia, where he filmed scenes of strife in Myanmar and parts of Africa. This stunt earned him the position of chief international correspondent for Channel One and ultimately caught the attention of ABC News and the rest is history.
Sometimes we just have to be ambitious and do whatever it takes to accomplish what needs to take you to your goal.
Amy Tan – Bestselling author
Amy ran a technical writing business with a partner and focused mostly on account management, but constantly felt unfulfilled in her position. She shared with her partner her desire to do more writing, but he told Amy to keep doing what she was “most good at” which was chasing down contractors and collecting bills and was her least favorite part of her job, and that writing was her weakest skill. She fought back repeatedly, and when her partner refused to acknowledge her skill, Amy ultimately quit. She took on a heavy load of freelance assignments, and went on to write a handful of best selling novels.
Sometimes we will have people in our lives that tell us we do not have what it takes and to just settle for what we have going on. This is the time to push the hardest and tell those people that we have what it takes and push down their negativity.
Overall, it just takes you to know that you’ve got what it takes, go after it full force, and not give naysayers (including the ones inside your own head) the opportunity to tell you otherwise.