Let’s face it—pursuing a passion is easier said than done. You’re stepping out of your comfort zone and trying to get good at something you may know little or nothing about. Chances are strong that it’ll take some time to turn something you care about into cold, hard profit. Not to mention, you’ll probably fail at your first few attempts. So, it makes sense that a lot of people begin with a lot of enthusiasm, and then quickly give up because it goes from fun to frustrating really fast.
But there are also those who stick with it and (eventually) reap the benefits. How do you become one of those people? There’s no one right way, but below you’ll see six proven strategies from successful people.
1. Use Your Free Time
Legend has it that Bill Gates went to work in his garage and all of a sudden, Microsoft was born. But it’s more complicated than that.
Gates was an exceptional math student growing up. When he was 13 years old, his school had a PDP 10 computer, which taught people how to code. Gates would go to the computer room during his lunchtime and tinker with the machine until he knew how to program.
There is a lot to learn from Gates’ younger self. He followed his passion and learned a new skill—during his lunch break. Be honest: How many times have you dropped something because you can’t find the time for it? The truth is that if it’s something that you really want to learn, you can make time for it, whether you wake up earlier or work on it during lunch.
2. Learn From Your Failures
Former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham is now one of the most successful fashion designers in the world. But it wasn’t an easy journey for her.
Beckham was torn apart by critics after her solo singing career failed. It was in this failure that Beckham realized music wasn’t her passion. That’s when she got into the fashion business and, after initial harsh reviews, ended up excelling in a whole new industry.
Had Beckham’s solo singing career taken off, she might’ve never become a fashion designer. Sometimes failure can push you toward another interest altogether. So, when something doesn’t work out—don’t dwell on it for too long. Instead, think about turning your Plan B into your Plan A. If you’re anything like Posh Spice, it’ll work out pretty well.
3. Study the Best
Among other accomplishments, songwriter Randy Bachman’s a member of the band Bachman-Turner Overdrive, known for hits like “Takin’ Care of Business” and “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”
A few years back, Bachman wrote a letter to young musicians on how to learn songwriting. His secret: “Studying the greats.” He would not only look for similarities between popular songs, but also write a sequel to hit songs just for practice.
If you feel like you’ve hit a plateau, analyze what the best in the industry are doing. By looking for patterns and things you can emulate, you’ll be able to break through and keep developing your skills.
4. Know When to Listen to Yourself
A lot of people dream of writing a bestselling book, but only so many people actually write it and pitch it so well they land a book deal. Count bestselling author Dean Koontz as a member of that exclusive club.
How did he do it? By ignoring others. Really! Koontz warns against writing groups because the criticism might intimidate you so much you stop developing your own style. He advises that the real secret to success is to listen to your gut and write the story you want to write.
That’s not to say to ignore all constructive feedback, but know that if your so-called support group is making you feel discouraged, you’re allowed to turn inward for motivation.
5. Give it Time
Paula Scher is one of the best graphic designers in the world today, responsible for the trademark logos of companies such as CNN, Windows, and Citi. Her secret? The same one your your parents always repeated to you: “Practice makes perfect.”
Scher believes that nothing can stand in for years (or even decades) of hard work. As she explains, “It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.”
So, don’t give up on your new skill if you don’t seem to be making progress. The fact that it’s taking you a while doesn’t mean you won’t achieve the same results as experts out there, you just need to give it some time.
6. Make Your Own Rules
Ellen DeGeneres is a household name. In its first three seasons alone, her daytime talk show won 15 Emmy Awards and became the first program to nab the Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show back-to-back-to back. She’s a spokesperson for CoverGirl and has even launched a fashion line. But she had to start somewhere.
For her first stand-up set, DeGeneres went on stage and ate a Whopper.
So what’s the lesson here? It’s OK to do something different, even if the same-old, same-old works for everyone else. DeGeneres experimented until she found what worked for her, and similarly, it may be that you need to try out a few different methods.
Of course, what all of these people have in common is that they went out there and did something. They worked at their craft, and today they have an amazing career to show for it. So, sit down to start learning that skill today, because if these people’s stories tell you anything, you will be better because of it.
Photo of hiker courtesy of Shutterstock.