Talent is a myth. Routine is all there is.

Success is what happens when you repeat the right things. Success, however you define it, is the product of routine.

People aren’t born with innate talent, just as people aren’t born with the ability to walk or talk. (“Good lord, this child is a natural walker!” said nobody, ever.) Talent is a myth best reserved for movies and prime time TV.

You and me, we already enjoy great success in life. We’re still alive, for a start. We have families, friends, passions and careers, and none of that is to be sniffed at. But each of us has a niggling feeling that there should be more success in our lives. And that’s where routine is god.

The hundred miles of thorns

Success isn’t an elevator that will raise us up and ping when we’re at the top. It isn’t even a ladder that will bring us to our destination, if only we put in the hard work to climb higher. The way to our success is a hundred-mile trek through weeds and thorns, and we’re not even sure there’s a destination on the far side of it. We have to convince ourselves of the right direction to take. There is no path to success but the one we cut for ourselves.

There are only three certainties we can cling to. First, if we don’t pick a direction and stick to it, we’ll wander aimlessly for the rest of our lives. Second, every thorn will sting like hell. All we can do is suck it up and move on. And third, if we don’t start hacking at the tangle every day to move forward, we’ll stay right where we are.

God that’s grim, I hear you say. Well, it doesn’t have to be. It just depends how much you can learn to enjoy chopping through thorns every day. If every hacked weed and every footstep is a fresh victory to spur you on, to find that destination that you know is there, then it could be the greatest and most rewarding journey of your life.

Wake up, picture where you want to be and do what you need to get there. Go to bed, wake up, repeat. Routine is all there is. Who cares if the results are crap? We learn in our sleep. You’ll be better tomorrow.

Will Smith, bricklayer

Will Smith said that when he was a kid, his dad knocked down the front wall of his business and told Will and his brother that he wanted them to rebuild it. At first it seemed impossible. But Will decided that he would just lay the first brick as perfectly as a brick could be laid. Then lay the second brick as perfectly as a brick could be laid. And in time, he and his brother had a wall.

Will Smith wasn’t a natural born bricklayer, or a natural born actor; it all happened through routine. “Through hours and hours of beating on your craft,” in his own words.

Metaphorical confusion

Sorry, I’m mixing metaphors. Back to our beloved hundred miles of thorns. Just remember what your old pal Will Smith said though, and hack through that next weed as perfectly as a weed can be murdered. And take that next solid footstep as perfectly as a footstep can be made. (So you are a natural walker after all. All it took was practise.)

I’ll probably see you along the way; I’ll be the one hacking and swearing through my own path in the next field along. Just remember: no one is talented. Talent is a myth. Routine is all there is. Oh, and if you’re going to have movie flashbacks along the way to remember the wise words of your teacher… make it Will Smith.

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