A Wild and Crazy Success Story

This is Wednesday, so this post is on outstanding performance.

Over the holidays, I watched the Kennedy Center Honors show.  Steve Martin was one of the performing artists honored in 2007.  I was pleased to see that the Wild and Crazy Guy got the recognition due him.  I am reading his book, Born Standing Up and Jeffrey Toobin’s fascinating book, The Nine: Inside the Secret World of the Supreme Court at the same time.  Somehow this juxtaposition appeals to my sense of the absurd.  Both are great books, by the way.  I highly recommend them for your leisure reading.

All that is nice, you say, but what does it have to do with outstanding performance?  Not much, until you consider a quote from Steve Martin on his success.  He said, “I attribute my success to persistence and naivete.” 

This quote really struck me.  I like the way it combines two concepts – persistence, which goes to the idea of hard work and stick-to-it-iveness; and naivete, which implies a child like view of the world.  It’s like having one foot grounded in the real world – hard work and persistence pay off; and the other in the fairy tale world where things work out because you want them to.

And I think it is great career and life advice.  Success and outstanding performance take work.  You have to put one foot in front of the other every day for innumerable days on end.  As Calvin Coolidge is famous for saying:

“Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.  Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.  Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.  Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.  Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.  The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and will solve the problems of the human race.”

Steve Martin pressed on.  He began his career at 10.  He got a job at Disneyland selling guidebooks.  He also worked in the Disney magic shop and the Bird Cage Theatre at Knott’s Berry Farm, where he performing his magic and comedy act a dozen times a week.  He demonstrated a dedication to excellence and innovation at a very young age.

The flyleaf of the book says, “Born Standing Up is a superb testament to the sheer tenacity, focus and daring of one of the greatest and iconoclastic comedians of all time.” Reading Born Standing Up leaves one with no doubt that Steve Martin is nothing if not persistent.

Then there’s the part on naivete.  Mark Twain once said, “All you need is ignorance and self confidence and success is sure.”  Naivete is sort of combination of ignorance and self confidence.  If you don’t know that what you’re doing is likely to end up in failure, you won’t be bothered by minor setbacks along the way.  You’ll persist, and will come up a winner.

A few years ago, when I decided to write my latest book, Straight Talk for Success, I asked for and received feedback from a well known internet marketing guru.  He told me that the success field is too full and that I will never gain an audience. 

When I didn’t take his advice, he told me that I “am in love with my own ideas” and am “foolish and pathetic” for not listening to his advice.  Maybe that’s what Steve Martin means when he talks about persistence and naivete as the keys to success; or what Mark Twain meant by ignorance and self confidence.

Well, here I am in January 2008.  I have done over 350 blog posts on career and life success, and have a book that should be available in mid February.  It remains to be seen if the book will sell well, but early interest seems to indicate that it will be a hit.

I definitely persisted in writing Straight Talk.  I thought I had it complete in May of 2007.  One of the people to whom I sent it for comment, told me that it was good, but that it could be a lot better if I let my voice come through.  I thought about what he said for a week, and then spent five months rewriting the book.  It is better now.  My voice comes through more clearly.

The common sense point here is twofold.  1) Believe in yourself – even if others think you are being naïve or overly self confident.  2) Don’t let others’ preconceived notions of what it takes to be a success, have an undo influence on you.  In other words – go for it, but be willing to put in the time and effort it takes to create you own career and life success.

One more thing – please buy a copy of Straight Talk when it comes out next month.  No, buy two; one for you and one for someone who can benefit from my common sense ideas on career and life success.  (This preceding sentence is a demonstration of my committed persistence to shamelessly promoting Straight Talk wherever and whenever possible.)

That’s it for today.  Thanks for reading.  Log on to my website www.BudBilanich.com for more common sense.  I had decided to close down my other blog: www.CommonSenseGuy.com to concentrate on this one.  However, several people have suggested that I leave it up even if I plan no more posts.  It seems as if they feel that what I’ve written there over the past few years is valuable content and deserves its place in cyber space.  So, I am going to leave up www.CommonSenseGuy.com.  I may even post there every once in a while.  If you enjoyed it, don’t cancel your RSS feed.  This means that if you want a free ebook version of my book 4 Secrets of High Performing Organizations, you can still get it by logging on to www.CommonSenseGuy.com.

I’ll see you around the web, and at Alex’s Lemonade Stand.


PS: Speaking of Alex’s Lemonade Stand – my fundraising page is still open.  Please go to www.FirstGiving.com/TheCommonSenseGuy to read Alex’s inspiring story and to donate if you can.

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