Monday 25th September 2017
So if you are ambitious like me, there comes a time when you set yourself an impossible goal. Whilst I think it’s good to have short term achievable goals, if I’ve learnt anything over the last 5 years it’s that you should never sell yourself short.
I thought the great writers – the ones with the big publishing deals and big-name agents – were a pure product of genetic talent. You couldn’t become great unless you were born with it. I’ve come to learn that’s horseshit. Whilst some might have had more innate talent than others at the start, all of them have got where they’ve got through hard work.
By daring myself to think that I could be great, I chanced sending my manuscript to agents I felt atmospherically out of my league. By daring myself to think I could be much better than I currently am, I’ve tackled every rewrite as a mountain to scale.
Sure, you need humility as an author. There’s no guarantees in this business and you can have all the great agents and publishing houses in the world, and still have a book tank.
But my point is… have a goal that’s in the stars. Have a goal that’s so astronomically big and so darn near impossible that even if you had all the talent in the world, it’s still going to be impossibly hard. You’ve got those short term realistic goals to keep your ego in check but have one that is impossibly big.
I have one for both my swordfighting and my writing. With my writing it’s to become the biggest fantasy author in the world. I figure if I ever manage to achieve it, I can always go for a secondary goal of becoming the biggest author in the world. Of course, how do you define ‘biggest’? It’s deliberately a little vague.
Am I likely to accomplish it? Who knows? Probably not, but I think it’s sufficiently big that even if I had a ridiculously successful career, it’s not going to happen for years.
With my swordfighting it’s to win Swordfish. Swordfish is to swordfighting what Wimbledon it to tennis. It’s as equally impossible.
I make a point of airing my long term goals. A lot of people like to keep them quiet for fear that they sound too egotistical. I figure that there’s a world of difference in having an impossible goal and saying that you feel you’re entitled to achieving it. By voicing them, I hold myself accountable. By telling people I at least have to try acting on them.
And then… I go work.
In both my writing and swordfighting I do not have the talent of others. I know that and have the humility to admit that.
And so I know that if I’m ever going to succeed I have to do one thing: I have to outwork everyone else.
So that’s what I do. I put my head down and put in the hours. With my writing, that meant writing loads of words in 2015. That means starting work on the second draft of book 2 before book 1 is even sold.
With my swordfighting, it means putting in the hours. I go to both training sessions each week. I spar every weekend, I go to the gym a couple of times a week for a session. Add to that nutrition, study, filming and editing, as well as things to help keep the school ticking along… I put in a lot of hours.
I put in more hours than most.
I do not have any innate talent for swordifghting. The closest I’ve ever come to anything approaching former experience was that I used to go to raves and twisted my hands a lot when I danced. Every gain has been through pure hard work. Every improvement is a product of sweat and time.
And so, saying I wanted to be good at swordfighting… yeah it was nice and friends wished me well… but they didn’t see it. When I went to Swordfish last year to see what I was training for, people politely told me I probably wasn’t ready. When I said I wanted to teach this year purely for selfish reasons, because I noticed everyone who taught for 6 months then saw explosive improvement, people were just glad to have someone willing to volunteer to teach so they didn’t get asked.
Getting good seemed like an impossible goal so I can forgive anyone thinking I was a bit delusional. Heck, it’s not a good long term goal unless it does look delusional.
But here’s the one thing – and perhaps if I have any talent it’s this – I can tell the difference between a genuinely impossible goal and one that’s just really, really fucking hard to achieve. And as delusional as those goals seem, what I’m not delusional about is the amount of hard work that it’s going to take.
And then I go away, and with rabid focus, I work away at those goals. I put in the hours. I fall and pick myself up. I question why I always make things so impossible for myself.
And the answer is simply this: the results.
And this is what I’m noticing. I’ve been as shocked as anyone at my explosive growth this summer – even though technically by saying I saw explosive growth in people after 6 months of teaching I shouldn’t be surprised.
But I’ve gone from people being complimentary and encouraging, to people believing. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed friends treat me a little differently. And it’s because they see that the impossible goal I set myself doesn’t seem as impossible as I once thought.
Now, I’m in no doubt about how I’ll do at Swordfish this year. My short term, realistic goal is to win a single match. But compare where I was last year to where I am now. As I told friends when I started putting in the hard work 18 months ago… 2016 was about catching the talented ones up. 2017 is about starting to pull ahead.
Now, there’s still a load of fighters in the school who are better than me. But even they are noticing the improvement. Slowly they are starting to believe that those long term goals might one day happen.
And that’s why I put myself through hell. Because that validation is like nothing else. It takes an accomplishment and it elevates it into something even more special.
Over the last couple of days I fought the very best in the world and whilst I am in no doubt that had it been the Swordfish final they would have stepped it up and annihilated me, they know I have it in me.
I’ve felt that over the summer my swordfighting has levelled up massively. Everyone around me agrees. It’s not up for debate. I said I would level up and I have. And it’s not because of anything magic or some trickery. It’s purely because I’ve put in the work.
And it meant that tonight, despite having such a bad lower back that I’m going to a specialist tomorrow; and despite not having my mental focus on the fighting on the drive into training, I took on the best in the world and I proved myself.
I still have a way to go, but then I’ve not plateaued yet. I’m not slowing down and resting on my laurels. Instead I’m stepping things up.
And you know, whatever setbacks my publishing journey has in store for me… understand that I’ll continue to put in the work those long term goals need. Don’t believe me? Go back to The Climb #1 and read it for yourself.
You want to know what it takes to deliver on your impossible dreams? It’s all documented here.
If you want to follow more of my journey, then be sure to check me on my social channels. Likewise, if you’d like me to expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
- Twitter: @figures
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/adrianfaulknerwriter/
- Instagram: AdrianFaulkner
- Snapchat: adrianauthor
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