The Secret of Getting Ahead

pink journal and colored pencil

I’ve been writing in a journal for 9 months that bears the quote, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” This quote is attributed to Mark Twain and affixed to my rosy pink journal in gold foil. This special journal was gifted to me by my former boss, friend, and amazing woman, Wendy. It means a lot to me because it was part of a farewell gift she gave me, as I left working at Radford University to pursue my work with New Hope Girls.

But today, I looked at those words differently and with extreme discernment, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” Do I believe that?

Yes and no. 

I do believe that so many people become paralyzed by fear or perfectionism and as a result never take a next step toward initiating their dream. Their journey stalls out as they repeatedly wonder “why me?” and “who am I to?” as they consider their inklings deep within. So yes, I do agree that one major dream differentiator is a person who is willing to bravely step out in faith, even if they aren’t fully sure. They get started.

But I think there is a critical, maybe even more important, element missing from my lovely journal cover. I would modify the quote (sorry, Mark Twain!) to read, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started and staying the course.” It is perseverance. 

Passion is Not an Adequate Sustainer

There are a lot of people with really good ideas and really earnest passions but will they dig in, endure, and do the work to see the passion yield fruit? So many do not. Passion is a great initiator but it is not always a sustainer. There needs to be conviction and accountability such that when the shiny and fun aspects of a dream start to dull you will stay committed.

The blog you are reading at this very moment is proof of perseverance in my life. There are blogs I publish and I hear nothing but crickets. Few comments on social media, no texts from friends, and minimal traffic to my site. It is hard to feel passionate when a blog falls flat. But then I remember, perseverance is my differentiator. Instead of abandoning my blog I take a deep breath, remember why I began in the first place, and commit to try again. 

We live in a culture of instant gratification, which can directly fly in the face of perseverance. Amazon can get us purchases in 2 days, text messages let us rapidly communicate, groceries are ordered and nearly instantly prepared for pick up, Tweets can provide live coverage as events unfold. Here and now, immediate and instant, we live in a world that doesn’t like to wait, experience boredom, or endure. 

Differentiate Yourself with Perseverance. 

I argue that if you really want to get ahead in life you need to persevere – that is the secret. Remember why you started. Hold your goal in your mind’s eye. Recognize when you are becoming bored and burnt out – don’t let that be a reason to quit but rather a reason to regroup and reconsider your approach. 

I may not always get “it” right but I do know how to stubbornly dig in my heels and put in the work today, even if I know there will not be a return for a year or two- or possibly even ever. If the dream is mine then I take full ownership to not only initiate it – but to cultivate it. On good days and bad. Exciting days and boring days. I will persevere and boldly pursue my dreams.

One thought on “The Secret of Getting Ahead

  1. Thank you for these nourishing words that I so needed to hear! You are so right, and we need to hear this message more than the flash-in-the-pan success stories we often hear about. This is more the reality, and until we accept that’s it’s hard to move forward!

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