The Only Thing You Need to Succeed
There is one single factor that differentiates successful people from everyone else.
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to move through life and their career with joyful ease? You may say they just got lucky. You would be wrong. Maybe they were born with some special talent. Could be, but so were you. So what’s the special factor?
Quite simply, it is passion. It is the one single quality developed and cultivated by successful people and organizations. Does that answer seem too easy? You may say, yawn, I have heard that before. What does it even mean? It is easier for me to show you than to tell you.
In 2009, long before Hamilton became a huge Broadway hit, Lin-Manuel Miranda performed a rough version of the song Alexander Hamilton at the White House Poetry Jam. The video of his performance is incredible. Miranda was another 6 years away from an Off-Broadway debut. But just look at him. He is on fire. He starts by introducing the concept of a rap musical about the life of Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton to the crowd. Everyone laughs. Clearly he expects the reaction and plays to the crowd. But then he starts singing.
What Passion Looks Like
If you watch Miranda, you can see it in his eyes. He burns with passion for what he is creating. The crowd can see it too. As the camera pans to capture the reaction, the audience goes from laughing at the crazy concept to nodding in disbelief at what Miranda is singing. Very little context is provided for the song. It is just one piece of what would be a masterpiece of a musical, but this crowd is hearing these words for the very first time. The lyrics are undoubtedly brilliant but it is Miranda’s passion that sells the song. You can feel the emotion in his performance, fueling every word.
“When you write a show, you have to be in love with the idea itself. You can’t think about the financial anything, because nine out of ten times nothing’s going to happen. It’s going to come, it’s going to fret and strut its hour upon the stage and it’s going to go. You can’t control the success or failure of a thing. So I was in love with this idea. Hamilton wouldn’t leave me alone. When I was walking my dog and I was taking a shower, he was like ‘write me.’ And so I’m very proud.”
What Passion Feels Like
First and foremost, it feels genuine. The only way to develop real passion for a project is to fall in love with it. You can’t create at a high level if you are copying someone else or doing something because other people think it is cool. We all love accolades and to be encouraged but those are just the icing on the cake. True success comes when you find your flow, the unending stream of energy to work and create and develop your idea.
Everyone remembers Johnny Cash, like, “Oh, Johnny Cash is still here! Johnny Cash is the fucking best!” But he never stopped being himself. Bowie didn’t release Ziggy Stardust 2. He was on to the next incarnation of himself. And that’s being yourself, too. Chasing wherever inspiration goes, even if it’s radically different from the thing that people know you as.
Once You Have Found It
Of course, none of this guarantees Hamilton level success. After reading the Ron Chernow biography of the founding father, Miranda became inspired. He said “ Alexander Hamilton ‘out-Dickens’ Dickens in the unlikeliness of this man’s rise from his humble beginnings”. It took Miranda an entire year to write the second song in the musical, My Shot. Think about spending an entire year of your free time on writing one song. It had to be perfect and he knew it. Undoubtedly, that song contributed more to the success of the musical than any other. But it took incredible determination to stick with this project. And that takes love of your creation.
You can’t control the success or failure of a thing you work on. You can only control the thing you work on.
In my life, I have found the most success and that feeling of passion when I pull at the threads of the things that interest me. Those things may be weird or off the beaten path. Fine. That just makes them uniquely my own. There was no competition for Miranda when he was writing a rap musical about a founding father. Not exactly a hot commodity.
Putting your heart and soul into any project always yields the kind of results you yearn for and fuels the passion inside. Keep working, keep developing your crazy idea. Never be put off because you don’t know where something will lead. Working to develop your creative passion is success in and of itself.
I highly recommend following Lin-Manuel Miranda on Twitter. He puts me to bed every night with the most inspirational messages.
Good night. Protect your heart and mind. Protect your time. This is YOUR life. And here it goes. I’m rooting for you. — Lin-Manuel Miranda