Learning the stories of your heroes can be a powerful inspiration. If you’ve ever researched a hero to find out how they got their break, you’ve probably noticed two recurring themes:
- They were relentless. They worked hard and kept trying, no matter how many times they failed.
- They were part of a supportive community that taught them how to improve and opened doors for them.
Let’s try something. Pick any of your heroes, and head to their Wikipedia page. I’ll wait right here for you. In fact, I’ll do it too, just to prove my point. I’ll pick … Tom Robbins, celebrated author and fried-chicken enthusiast.
Now, take a look at how they got their start. You will almost assuredly read about their participation in several communities. In Robbins’ case, he was involved in a ton, including:
- Virginia Commonwealth University
- Richmond, Virgina’s poetry and art scene
- Richmond Times-Dispatch & Seattle Times newspapers
- University of Washington
- Seattle Magazine (and several other local Seattle publications)
- KRAB-FM in Seattle
- New York Filmmakers Club
- Seattle’s art scene
You get the idea. It’s worth noting this was all prior to his success as an author. It was his work as an art critic for the Seattle Times that piqued the attention of DoubleDay, who asked him to write about the Pacific Northwest’s art scene. Because he wanted to write fiction and had proven himself, he was able to parlay it into deal for his debut novel, Another Roadside Attraction.
So what did you learn about your hero? Whoever they are, I am certain they too made the frightening and exciting decision to go where the action is and find a community of like-minded people.
What About the Internet? Can I Just Do That?
Listen. The internet is awesome, and practically indispensable when it comes to self-promotion. Of course, there are some amazing online communities. But online communities and relationships can only do so much.
The fact is that the people in your physical sphere have the greatest and most immediate impact on your life, even if you’re emotionally closer to online friends. The people who are physically in your life are the ones who decide where you live, where you go to school, what you do for fun, etc. This will always be true, so you have to be IRL-connected to people who can meaningfully impact you.
People are also just more likely to help folks they know IRL vs. people they’ve never met in person and who email them asking them for guidance or support.
OK, Where Do I Go Now?
If there’s a strong local community related to your passion, that is good news! Take advantage of it and attend events at least once a month.
If there’s not, see if there’s one within a few hours’ drive.
If you’re in a desert for what you love—you want to be a professional snowboarder but you live in Daykin, Nebraska—it can be real discouraging. But don’t lose hope! You have the opportunity to do some research on your next move. In that snowboarding case, you might apply for colleges near the mountains, like the University of Utah or University of Vermont (both 30 minutes from a resort). Or maybe you get a job at a ski resort to enjoy some heavily discounted lift tickets!
“Following Your Dream Is Scary!” -–Everyone
I was talking to a friend who owns an entertainment company based out of Los Angeles, New York, and Denver. When I asked her the difference between successful people and people who never get off the ground, her answer surprised me. The biggest factor by far, she said, is whether they show up in spite of their terror.
It’s scary to put yourself out there no matter what. But only at first! At some point, you will get in where you fit in. It’s scary to take a risk, but that’s way less scary than never taking one.
“Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway.” –John Wayne