Food for thought:
- When B.B. King was alive he used to average 300 performances a year. It’s estimated that he’s performed over 15,000 times in a 52 year span.
- The career of James Brown, known as “the hardest working man in showbiz”, spanned 50 years. He and his band would average 330 shows a year, most of which were one-nighters.
- The Grateful Dead performed an estimated 2300 live concerts during a 30 year span. They are also famous for their volume of work as well as the devotion of their fans.
Between these three they have numerous awards and accolades, as well as the respect of their peers. They’re legends and their reputations are cemented in history.
So what’s my point? It’s this-in today’s fast paced business environment it’s easy to think that being successful in the moment matters over the long run. It doesn’t. The economic collapse of 2008 should have taught us that’s not the case. True success is measured over the long term by building a body of work that speaks for itself.
This doesn’t mean that all you need to do is show up, do the minimum amount, not get fired, and that makes you great. True long term success means consistently producing quality work. It also means being flexible to change. James Brown, while being known primarily as a soul singer, also produced a movie score, owned several radio stations and record labels, and also collaborated with a host of musicians over the course of his career. As a result his tremendous influence on hip-hop and other forms of music is undeniable.
Taking a long view of your work also helps to put mistakes into perspective. All of the musicians mentioned above have had low points in their careers. Some have been abused by record labels, had issues with law enforcement, and been accused of promoting drug use, amongst other things. However, when taken in the context of the entire careers, these incidences don’t overshadow their accomplishments. If anything, they serve as reminders that adversity can be an opportunity. To be successful one has to be able to learn from and overcome limiting situations.
On a personal level I try to look at it in a similar fashion. Here’s a scary fact-I won’t be able to retire for at least another 30 years. 30 YEARS. Am I physically, intellectually, and emotionally fit to sustain my blog, my work career, and my personal obligations over that time frame? If not, what behaviors do I need to change? How do I further develop myself so that I can continue to create good things? Who can I turn to for support and guidance?
So in conclusion, you should be prepared to work hard, smart, and at a high level, not only now but well into the future. Maybe after a few decades you can consider yourself successful.
What are you doing to prepare yourself for the long term?