How to Win

I admit I am an enthusiastic sports fan. I get emotionally involved in wanting my favorites to win. But my team just got beat in the first round of the NCAA Basketball Tournament. Depressing. Last year, my major league baseball team lost the National League Championship Series and missed the World Series. Frustrating. My football team lost in the Super Bowl in a horrible display of weak execution. What happened? My favorite tennis player lost in the Wimbledon finals. And in the US Open finals. And in the championship match of the World Tour Finals. Drat.

Of course, this kind of crushing outcome always picks at my fragile basis for belief in my own ability to win. If professional athletes, or dedicated young amateurs who have committed hours and hours of training cannot win the Big One, the grand prize, how can I expect to win?

Now, I admit, I’m not trying to win the title at Wimbledon, or even the title at my local tennis club. I just want to win at the profession I have chosen in life, that of a fine artist. So, the bigger question is: how can you hope to win, especially when there is so much competition out there, in any profession you choose?

Barbara Corcoran, a “shark” on the TV show “Shark Tank,” and a successful multimillionaire who sold her New York real estate firm for a boat-load of money, once told an interviewer that the difference between an agent making $40K a year and a million dollars a year was one simple thing. The interviewer was even doubtful that she was serious and asked her to repeat her statement. The one difference, she said, was that the agent making over a million dollars a year keeps going even when they got knocked down and face repeated rejection. Life is full of rejections, Barbara testified, but if you want to succeed, you have to get up every time and keep going.

I am convinced that Barbara is on to something important here, a universal truth. If you want to win, you just have to keep going no matter how many times you stumble or get knocked down. No matter how many hours of painting it takes, no matter how many people walk by your latest piece and don’t buy, no matter how many galleries send you a form letter telling you that they are not adding any more artists at this time, no matter how many times you start a painting and toss it out because you are convinced it stinks, you keep going.

Yeah, you need to put “miles on your brush” as the saying goes. You need to put in those 10,000 hours to become as good as you can be. But the key to succeeding is not the talent. It’s not the education (you can get that on YouTube these days). It’s not even the opportunity, because that will come in many different forms as you apply this simple principle. It’s just to get up each day and keep going. 

So, how do you win? Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.