How Lucky — To Work So Hard!

My fake spouse reassured me, “It takes a long time to become an overnight success.”

We were at a call back for a Kodak commercial. I was auditioning for the part of a young mother. I didn’t get the part, but I got that awesome advice!

I had been bitching about my slow-moving talk show career to the actor who was auditioning as the father. I said, “You know I worked so hard on my cable show, Mary Beth & Friends, and honestly, I am surprised I haven’t become the new Katie Couric.”

This was years ago. I never forgot my pretend husband’s wisdom. It kept me going. Success takes time. Fake husbands (and actors) can be so smart.

But now it seems the whole world is discussing this wisdom:

Luck is out. Hard work is in.

Last night, I was listening to the Ted Talk from David Shenk, author of The Genius in All of Us.

Here’s what I got. Genes don’t matter a hill of beans unless you work hard. There’s no such thing as born smart!

This is a difficult revelation for me – me! The daughter of a genius (okay, two geniuses)! I always felt I had a slight genetic, intellectual advantage — swimming as I was in the Mensa gene pool. But no, sorry, not so.

My working 3 jobs, auditioning for commercials, and producing and hosting my own cable show probably mattered more to my current success (ahem!) than my brainy family tree.

I was thinking about this today, when from the LinkedIn group, LinkEds & writers, Indy Quillen, emailed her introduction.

Indy said, “Many years ago, when I excitedly showed my martial arts teacher my first place trophy, he smiled and said, ‘See how lucky you are when you work hard?’ I’ve never forgotten that lesson!”

Love that!

I don’t know how to fit in my awareness of the importance of hard work to my Rules for Living.

Maybe Rule Number 3? Remember your hoops of steel (priorities) — even when you think success should occur magically and quickly. Success takes time.

And hard work is 1 of 3 parts that makes up community:

Writing in a Community

I started a lunchtime writing group. The last time we met we wrote poems on fragments of Anne Sexton’s poetry. (Brilliant assignment, Tiffany!)

I cried a little as I wrote my piece. When it came my turn to read the poem out loud, I alerted the group, “I may cry when I read this. Don’t worry about me. Don’t hand me tissues. I am okay. I’m just having feelings.”

I read my piece out loud and two-thirds of the way in, I began sobbing. Literally sobbing, sniveling, gasping-for-breath crying. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like to sob — especially in the middle of the workday and in front of coworkers. That is the time I like to joke around about Toddlers & Tiaras or take a walk in Riverside Park.

But there were things bubbling up in me. A sadness around the shifts and losses in my marriage, due to my husband’s Parkinson’s Disease.

Here’s the story: I cope really well. I work out. I write. I share my feelings. I lean on my friends. I feel alone. I love my kids. I love my job. I love my communities. But, at times, I feel and I am alone. And I am sad.

There was something healing about writing about and reading this piece to a writing group — a community of real people in real time and in a real place. We wrote together and then we listened to one another read.

Our meeting is simple. We rotate leaders. The leader picks a topic and then we write for 20 minutes. Then we go around and read what we’ve written. We have written about other things too — our childhoods and our rituals.

There is an alchemy to being a part of a community of real writers. The other day I wrote on my other blog What is Community?

It is hard work, passion and diversity. This lunch time writing group has and is all that. We meet again tomorrow at 12:30. Join us.

What Is Community?

Community is 3 things — hard work, passion and diversity.

Hard work. A ton of research shows you need 10,000 hours of practice to be a world class master. Malcolm Gladwell reported this in Outliers. Hard work, dogged effort and continual engagement are more important than talent, inclination and ability.

Hard work is probably more important than luck. Resilience – not giving up — is key.

Note to self: Remember this when exhausted by my writing load (much of it self-imposed). I am logging my hours towards mastery. I may be closing in on my 10,000 hours of writing. For five years, I have written probably for 3 hours every day, which equals about 5,000 hours. And then considering my writing life before the last five years, it’s possible I’ve nearly got 10,000 hours.  

Another note to self: When talking to my kids, I must praise their effort and not their fabulousity! (But then I’m so crazy in love with my kids that I tell them all the time, you are so wonderful. I guess I should say, your hard work is so wonderful!)

Passion. I’ve been reading Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work. The guy’s good. He talks about following your bliss and paying attention to the stories you tell about yourself – your archetypes and night dreams.

Note to self: Moore says it’s okay to have a whole lot of passions (or 4 blogs!) – for work and life. When I heard Moore speak at Marble Collegiate Church years ago, he said the one word he couldn’t advise as a guiding principle in life is “balance.” Moore said, “If you have to choose between two things — do both!”

The Hero's Journey & The Matrix

I’m with him. I’m up for following my passion and following my bliss. Remember Joseph Campbell and the hero’s journey? Loved it way back when. Still love it today. The Matrix is based on the hero’s journey:

Diversity. Diversity is not only having diverse classes, races, religions, ages, but points of view.

Note to self: Do not become so in love and so entrenched with my own point of view that I see the world solely through my own Matrix glasses. 

Thanks to Dominic A.A. Randolph, the head of school at Riverdale Country School who shared these 3 thoughts on what makes for community at a gathering last week.

Riverdale’s tag line is Mind, Character, Commitment, Community. His smart blog post is: