How Did They Get There?

You may ask yourself, how did they get there? Not in the Talking Heads sense, of course:

But in a very real sense.

If you want something that’s important to you, and you haven’t yet gotten it, turning that song outward to ask how someone else got there can help. You’ve just got to be objective about it.

Don’t let envy get in the way

Take someone who has achieved some big financial goals. Those could be buying that beautiful house, sending their kids through college without student loans, or retiring to some tropical paradise. Whatever. I’m sure we all know or have heard of something who has done something we would love to do. I can think of a few things myself pretty easily.

So let’s say you have some great idea or an awesome hobby, and would love to make a lot of money from it, like JD Roth did back when he sold his blog.

If you get caught up in envy, you might think this:

I think there’s an overall assumption that when you achieve a financial goal you must have had some opportunity that everyone else didn’t have.

-Bess, a GRS commenter

It’s a common way to think, as Bess points out. But it’s not very productive, because if only the favored few with some secret advantage can succeed, what’s the point in trying?

Believe differently

When you believe YOU can do it too — because success comes from hard work and perseverance — you’ll be able to objectively take a look at how your role models got to where you want to be.

What kind of work did they do? How long did it take them? What did they focus on, weaknesses, strengths, or some combination of the two? Did they get outside help, by taking classes, reading, etc? How much time each day do they spend on it?

For example, I know Pat Flynn works really, REALLY hard at bringing his best work to his readers and listeners. He’s not content with good enough. He wants to help people, and that requires constant learning and improvement. I also know that he almost quit blogging, but he kept at it.

Study the folks you admire, and then figure out the steps you might need to take to do something similar. Then do them. But don’t just imitate. Be yourself along the way.

Put your own stamp on it

When you set out to do something, remember to put your own stamp on it. Don’t try to be like someone else. Try to be the best you you can be.

You’re studying how those other successful folks got there in order to learn the methods that they used, and to see how you can make those or similar methods work for you. Typically, those methods involve a whole lot of hard work, and often a long period of time. Don’t buy into the myth of the overnight success. Keep at it instead, and follow through over the long haul.

What’s a goal you’ve got that’s been hard for you to reach so far? Who could you study to find additional things you could be doing along the way?


  • Envy is tricky because you only see what you want to see — but if you took it to the extreme and wanted to be like JD, then you’d end up divorced. You can’t pick and choose. Really.

  • Not having such a short fuse and being able to enjoy the moment instead of planning for whatever is coming next. I definitely look to my friends for help and inspiration.

  • I’ve got an audition post up over on GRS right now that talks about professional goals, and the comment you quoted here from Bess could very well have been left on my post as well. It’s so tough to be able to stop and smell the roses and enjoy what we have, not mourn the opportunities we’ve missed.