I love to watch documentaries about the lives of world changers. The Steve Jobs, the Bill Gates, the Albert Einstein, the Walt Disney, the Thomas Edison kinds of people. Their stories are always inspiring. If you watch enough of these documentaries, you start to see a common theme in their stories: They all started from the bottom. Usually they were low on money. They failed A LOT. And every indication showed that they should give up. At one point, Steve Jobs was building computers with a friend in a garage by hand, one at a time. A far cry from how Apple now has global influence. Jobs, however, didn’t allow his momentary circumstance deter him from his mission. That’s inspiration for all of us!
So many of us will miss our calling in life because we are unwilling to start at the bottom. We are unwilling to put in all those unnoticed and unappreciated hours day-in and day-out. We are unwilling to do the dirty part of the job. Or we do try but quit because it’s not the kind of glamour that comes from years of hard earned promotion.
We can’t be afraid of starting at the bottom. There is no other place to start. You have to have day 1 on the job. And day 1 will look very different than day 2,564. But our time at the bottom will shape us, much like our documentary heroes, preparing us for what is coming. And I truly believe starting at the bottom doesn’t have to be as painful as we think if we know HOW to start at the bottom:
SHUT DOWN THE FEAR OF INITIAL FAILURE
It’s natural to measure/compare your initial outcomes against the BEST or STANDARD outcomes in your field. For me, as I started songwriting and recording, I was measuring my songs and recordings against THE BEST in the world. It was discouraging because I realized the large gap between where I was and where “they” were. It felt like failure in many cases. BUT we have to silence that voice that’s telling us “it’s not good enough, so just quit”. “Not good enough” right now, doesn’t mean it will never be good enough. There is no “overnight success”. EVENTUALLY we will grow in our craft and begin to create things on a higher level as we remain diligent and disciplined. Yes, in the beginning it’s likely that it’s not “world class”. But if the fear of the initial outcomes crush us into submission, our eventual potential will never be realized. True failure is in never trying, not in trying with bad results. Shut out the fear and try... and be okay with some bad results.
START WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
The biggest enemy to getting to where we want to go is starting where we are. A lot of us are only willing to “start” once we get the right equipment, or the professional tools, or connect with the right people. But don’t wait to start. Start RIGHT NOW. Yes, we might appear “amateur” because of what little we have to work with, but unless we are going to take out a massive loan to get going, we have to start with virtually nothing! If we are putting off the start of pursuing our dreams and goals it’s probably because we really don’t want it like we say we do. If we are REALLY hungry for the goals and dreams in our lives, we will figure out every work-a-round possible just to get going. Conditions for our success are great right now if we are willing to start with what we have. Don’t pin success on what we hope to eventually obtain. Things that I thought in the beginning would be “game-changer” items turned out to be pretty tiny pieces to the overall puzzle. We are the game-changers if we are willing to jump in where we are.
THE VALUE IS IN THE EXPERIENCE OF THE JOURNEY
The time we spend working on things at the bottom become invaluable to us and others as we progress. The experience we gain in those early years “at the bottom” make us valuable to others because we’ve “been there” and know how to do it. Hands-on experience trumps knowledge in almost every creative or entrepreneurial environment. Would we trust someone who has successfully done something 500 times, or someone who says they “know how to do it, but have never done it before”? So while we are in the trenches working on things we know and feel aren’t THE BEST in the world, we are actually in our training ground of success. Don’t avoid the experience at the bottom just because we don’t feel we are “changing the world”, because those experiences are what shapes us for what is to come. If we could get a glimpse into the years of experience and know-how that goes into creating something “world class”, we’d begin to understand the value in the journey, and not just the “right now” results.
TALENT ISN’T EVERYTHING
There are so many talented people in the world. They are simply better than you and me. I see it everyday. It’s awesome! And humbling! But that doesn’t disqualify us from being great at what we do. There are so many other characteristics that can make us great at what we do when coupled with even small amounts of talent. To name a few: work ethic, commitment to excellence, humility, tenacity, good attitude, drive, passion, heart, and so on. It takes a large portion of all of those things to be successful in any field. Talent certainly helps, but I’ve seen it time and again, pure talent is only part of the battle. We can develop our talent as we go, but don’t let the lack of it (in comparison to others around us) stop us. Talent is a gift that can be trained and developed, but our mindset about how we work and behave is a choice that we can make right now.
TREAT TODAY LIKE WE WILL TREAT TOMORROW
A lot of us tend to work less inspired because it’s not the “big project” or the “big names” or the “big budget”. We won’t prepare the same, perform the same, put in the same hours, or try as hard. But unfortunately working in that manner actually prevents us from ever reaching higher levels. We must treat everything we do like it’s the biggest thing we’ve ever done. 100% goes into everything, always. It’s EXHAUSTING! But that will build us a reputation of excellence. To me, we are training ourselves that everything always matters, even when it doesn’t. And that becomes a huge deal when we get to the point where everything always matters. Be willing to treat today like it’s a huge deal, even if it may not be. So if tomorrow becomes a huge deal, we already know how to handle it.
CREDIBILITY ISN'T SOMETHING SOMEONE BESTOWS UPON US, WE BUILD IT
We aren’t going to start Day 1 on the cover of Forbes magazine or accepting an award. A lot of us come out of the gate looking for those kind of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities that would seem to give us some sense of credibility. Credibility, however, is built in how we work and treat people "at the bottom" when it seems like no one sees. We can spend our lives running around trying to position ourselves to be struck by a huge lightning bolt of success that proves our "awesomeness", but those attempts will fail. We have to get in there and grind our way towards BEING the lightening bolt of success. Our credibility is in our control, so take on each day with that mindset.
Starting at the bottom takes a lot of humility. Especially if those around you have already spent their season there. Remember the bottom is temporary, but necessary. It will shape us in so many ways for the future if we are willing to get in there and get dirty. Don’t forsake the bottom, because without the bottom there is no foundation to build on. The foundation is necessary to hold the eventual weight that will be put on you. The deeper the foundation, the more weight can be held. Dig your foundations deep.