Sometimes It's Just that Simple: The Do's and Don'ts of Success

This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

In search of a good read, I surfed my bookshelves, running my fingers along the spines of the books, back and forth, until I settled on Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids, the story of her life with artist Robert Mapplethorpe. (Yes, that's right -- actual books were involved. A rare happening in these modern days of electronic devices.)

As this particular passage from Just Kids set my mind's light bulbs aflashin', giving me cause for pause at which time thinking ensued (another rare occurrence), I'd thought I'd share it with you.

One Indian summer day we dressed in our favorite things, me in my beatnik sandals and ragged scarves, and Robert with his love beads and sheepskin vest. We took the subway to West Fourth Street and spent the afternoon in Washington Square. We shared coffee from a thermos, watching the stream of tourists, stoners, and folksingers. Agitated revolutionaries distributed antiwar leaflets. Chess players drew a crowd of their own. Everyone coexisted within the continuous drone of verbal diatribes, bongos, and barking dogs. We were walking toward the fountain, the epicenter of activity, when an older couple stopped and openly observed us. Robert enjoyed being noticed, and he affectionately squeezed my hand.

'Oh, take their picture,' said the woman to her bemused husband, 'I think they're artist.'
'Oh, go on,' he shrugged. 'They're just kids.'

Thus, the title of Smith's book Just Kids, and a powerful reminder that we are not born great, famous, rich or genius. They were "just kids" finding their way. They were students of life; they were beginners as are we -- beginners.

The people who "make it" are essentially no different than you or me. They succeed, if you will -- because they do not quit -- because they do not drop out. They seek to improve and in so doing, they more than improve. They grow.

When we look at the achievements of successful people, we often experience them in their fully evolved form. We assume that they know more than us, or that they are more talented, or that they know the "right" people; we assume that they have something that we don't have. We believe that they get to succeed. And, sadly, we believe that we don't; we get to fail.

Dr. K. Anders Ericsson, professor of psychology at Florida State University, has spent decades--the majority of his career -- studying prodigies, superior performers, geniuses--those who succeed in ways that we think that we can not.

Ericsson says that .... "For the superior performer the goal isn't just repeating the same thing again and again but achieving higher levels of control over every aspect of their performance. That's why they don't find practice boring. Each practice session they are working on doing something better than they did the last time." (source: Think Smart: A Neuroscientist's Prescription for Improving Your Brain's Performance by Richard M. Restak)

Can you see how this pertains to us? How this relates to achieving a higher level of skills in any and all areas of interest, in life in general?

Just for a moment, imagine how it would be if you considered each day an opportunity to improve, to evolve, to do something better--even a little bit better--instead of thinking failing thoughts that lead you to "I quit?" or "I can't."

Living a full and happy life is about seeking opportunities and creating ways to make progress. It's about experimenting with assorted options and various skills until you find the ones that work best for you, and then practicing and improving on that which you seek.

Life is inevitably fraught with setbacks, roadblocks, and struggles, but at the end of the day, we do not give up. Instead, we simply seek to improve. No biggie.

Do not endeavor to be the best.
Do not aim for genius.
Do not strive to be a success.
Do seek to improve.

Sometimes it's just that simple.

Janice Taylor
Life Coach, Positarian, Author, Artist