66: Defining Success

Eighty-four days. Fifteen times a day. In total, I have written the phrase: “I, Craig Heimbuch, will iterate success” in my morning journal more than twelve hundred times. Every day this year, except the last two. Yesterday and today, I’ve written something else. A new mantra. A new combination of words to hypnotize myself in the morning and get me focused for the day.

I, Craig Heimbuch, will be a best-seller.

What was the impetus for the change? Well, I started the year wanting 2016 to be a more successful year than any of the others I’ve spent schlepping this big blue pebble. I wanted to manage success through small, iterative decisions taken every day. No big sweeping efforts, just a bit of work every day with the cumulative effect of achieving some goals and becoming more successful.

I suppose I started off intentionally vague. I told myself I would iterate success, but I didn’t really define what success would look like. And it seem strange that it would take me over a thousand repetitions to realize how indefinite ‘success’ is, but it did. So I began asking myself what it was, how I would define a successful change in behavior. I started thinking about the things I want – more financial stability, a better car, a shelf full of books with m name on the spine, a feeling of accomplishment, a sense of mastery, even more agency as it relates to time. I considered all the outcomes and looked for that moment of inertia, that achievement that might enable those kinds of results and, after a lot of thinking (and, yes, praying) I came up with being a best-selling author.

I know, big stretch, right? The author wants to be a best-seller. But it wasn’t always that obvious to me. In fact, I used to reject the idea as not being worth aspiration. But I’ve changed my tune. I have the right to do that right?

I’ve been taking a Masterclass with James Patterson. It’s an online course that leads you through 16 lectures and a workbook featuring Patterson and I’m kind of surprised I signed up for it, to be honest. I was never really a fan of his work. I didn’t hate it per se, but I was just enough of a snob to think it was beneath me. It’s only been by learning about his process, understanding his motivation and then researching the results that I’ve come to really admire him. Seventy-six best-sellers and living the dual-pane life of work and freedom that I, selfishly, aspire to. What’s not to admire about the guy?

But it wasn’t just Patterson. It was also a change in how I wanted to think of myself. I’m a decent writer. Not great. Not bad. I do okay work. But I’ve never had a lot of confidence in myself, even though writing is a large part of how I’ve supported my adulthood and family. Even with great successes- and I’ve been pleased to have had some memorable moments as a writer – there has always been an undercurrent of low-grade deprecation that’s gone along for the ride. I’ve always sort of put myself down, even when there are things worth celebrating. I’ve never given myself the permission to be excited to be a writer, even though it is my most favorite thing.

So that’s why I changed the definition of success. Not a bunch of results, but one scary, ambitious goal that will force me to find confidence, force me to sit down every day and punch the keys, force me to push for better.

Yesterday, I bid farewell to ambiguous definitions of success and began to focus my intention on a single outcome – being a best-seller. Will it work? I don’t know. What’s it going to take to get there? I have a rough idea, but no real clear plan. The thing I do know is that I’m holding myself accountable to something nearly impossible.

And that’s worth writing fifteen times every morning.

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