We all have read advice by our career heroes on how they achieved the massive fame fortune, and adoration that catapulted them to legendary status. And who hasn’t daydreamed about following in our heroes’ footsteps, doing just what they did to capture a small piece of our own career glory?
There’s certainly nothing wrong with doing that, but I do have some unfortunate statistics for you (that’s me – fun like the algebra teacher).
But when it comes right down to it, what worked for the most successful people in your professional field won’t necessarily work for you. In fact, there’s an overwhelming likelihood that it won’t. Even if you do manage to become the next Steve Jobs or Paul Rand, the way in which you achieve your success will likely look nothing like the road they each took.
Recommended Reading: Failure Is Feedback: How 5 Billionaires Had To Fail To Succeed
When following pre-traveled paths, it’s important to consider your own individual circumstances. Your needs, goals and available resources are unique to you, and doing things because someone else did them may actually hold you back from achieving whatever it is you were meant to achieve.
Eat The Meat; Leave The Bones
Here’s something to try the next time you read an inspirational or instructive book or blog post. Read it through and take notes on things that resonate with you – if something doesn’t resonate, ignore it. It’s important to pick and choose what’s relevant for you specifically and leave the rest on the table. Be ruthless in ignoring whatever doesn’t fit your particular situation. Yes, even if it’s this very article.
You shouldn’t let anyone’s opinion get in the way of attempting something you want to attempt. The only way to find out if something will work for you is by trying it.
You Know Yourself Best
It can be discouraging when someone you admire gives a piece of advice that’s completely contrary to what you believe to be the right path for you. You may feel as though you must follow that advice, because Famous So-And-So says it’s the only way, but that’s garbage.
In our age of limitless access to infinite information, it’s possible to piece together your own road map for success that’s tailor-made for you and contains no bony bits. After all, even our heroes say weird, irrelevant things from time to time. They’re only human, after all.
Read, Read, Read
As a writer, I might be overstating the importance of reading constantly. Just kidding. That’s impossible. Reading is vital to your growth in any field, but in creative ones in particular. Next to travel and first hand experience, reading is the best way for you to learn about the world and draw inspiration from it.
Read For Ideas
In fact, the way in which we convert words into images can have a completely different effect on our brains than actually looking at something can. This is why reading makes you smarter than watching television.
You’re still receiving information either way, but only reading engages your imagination and visualization skills, which in turn makes your brain work harder, which in turn makes it generate more neural connections and new ideas.
You may find that, after reading enough, you can create your own path for success that has nothing to do with whatever it was your heroes did before you. Then, you can write your own book and share your wisdom with others.
The Opposite Of Your Inspiration
Want to get the most out of reading? Here’s the secret: you have to read everything. That’s right – anything you can get your hands on, even if it seems irrelevant to what you want to know. Read lots of new books and blogs; don’t just keep recycling your favorites.
If you only read things you like and agree with, you will become entrenched in a very narrow way of thinking about success, creativity, and life in general.
Challenge Your Reading List
Read things you wouldn’t normally read, and even things that you’re pretty sure you’re going to hate. Sometimes you can learn the most from the people with whom you most strongly disagree. I’ve gotten loads of inspiration from books and blog posts I’ve read that seemed on the surface to be a giant waste of my time to slog through. But if you gain even a shred of a usable idea, it was worth it.
Why? Because you’re not simply reading for fun, you’re reading to plan out your own professional road map.
Learning For Science
As a designer, you should not be consuming information strictly for pleasure, but also for research. Don’t just read a book, or look at a design or digest a blog comment and then move on without taking notes, making sketches and putting your brain to use in coming up with extrapolations and further developments of idea fragments.
When stitched together, those fragments can create a whole that will shock you with its originality and freshness. I like to keep a notebook nearby at all times when I’m browsing the internet or curled up with a new book. I never know when inspiration may strike from something I’m reading or looking at, and I want to make sure I don’t let any intriguing ideas slip away.
That’s not to say I’ll actually use each idea that comes into my head, but it’s important to get them down on paper to sift through and find the gold nuggets.
By arming yourself with a wide variety of knowledge, you can bend the ‘rules’ handed out by others to your own expectations, and never get stuck following advice that’s guaranteed to doom any real success you might have.
Remember that your individual results not just may, but will vary – often widely – and don’t take every single opinion of a respected industry leader at face value. Challenge it, put it to the test, and see if it really sounds as it looks on the surface.