This past weekend, I was reminded of something that, deep down, I’ve known for some time, but tend to forget nonetheless:
The path to success is often a long and winding road.
I’d like to illustrate with a story.
My nearly lifelong best friend, Summer, was in town this past weekend for a barrel race (well, not literally in town, but in Oklahoma, at least). And like the good friend that I am, I went to watch her compete. 🙂
She and her horse, Tulsa, made a beautiful run, and out of nearly 300 competitors, they placed third overall, taking home a nice chunk of change. I was thrilled for her. I don’t often get to watch her run these days, and this was by far the best run I’ve seen her make.
But I’d like to back up a bit.
Back when I started barrel racing in my teens, I had the good fortune of inheriting my mother’s ex-racehorse, Dee. I trained her on barrels myself, but what I lacked in knowledge, Dee made up for with natural-born speed. It wasn’t long before we had our first taste of success. I would go on to get another race-bred horse, and then a third. Make no mistake, I worked my butt off trying to achieve my barrel racing dreams. It was anything but easy. And though I never joined the ranks of professional barrel racers, I did meet my goals. I won numerous belt buckles, a saddle, a rodeo, and even a horse trailer at one point.
Summer has also shared many of the same barrel racing goals, but due to life circumstances, was a little slower to set about achieving them. She married and had a baby young, and it was nearly a decade later before she bought a horse who could help her on her way. By the time she began barrel racing regularly, I’d already moved away from the sport.
Tragically, Summer would lose the horse she’d built her dreams on, but she didn’t let that stop her. She bought another prospect (Tulsa), and worked hard to get her new horse going. It was obvious from the start that Tulsa had talent, but it would take a couple years for the two of them to get completely in sync. They began doing well at local jackpots, and even at the occasional big race or rodeo. Then, last year, Summer found out she was pregnant again and of course, had to take some time off from riding and barrel racing.
But after giving birth to her adorable baby girl, she jumped right back into the saddle, determined to pick up where she left off. It’s taken a few months, but they’ve definitely found their stride and have even become more consistent, placing in big rodeos and jackpots such as the one I watched her at this past weekend.
To the outside observer, it might appear she’s just lucky. That she found the right horse and is now winning the big bucks (ha ha!). But of course, I know this to be anything but true. For over two decades, Summer’s worked diligently to be where she is today. It’s no stroke of luck, but rather some of the hardest work you can imagine which has gotten her to this point.
It’s the same with writing, of course. Success is no easy feat.
As the entrepreneur, John C. Maxwell said, “Dreams don’t work unless you do.”
It’s one thing to dream up a book idea, but it’s quite another to actually write the darn thing. And even if you do, by chance, complete it, publication is by no means, a guarantee. In fact, I’d liken getting your first book published (via the traditional route, anyway) to the proverbial camel fitting through the eye of the needle. Probably not gonna happen.
But here’s the thing to keep in mind. Success never looks like what we expect.
And everyone’s path to success will look different.
I’d venture to guess that many people give up when their course takes that first downward plunge.
But you can’t do that! Just like life, the journey to fulfilling your dreams will have many ups and downs. Persistence and dedication to your craft is the only way to push through.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m trapped somewhere in the midst of all those squiggly lines, but I just have to remember back to a previous time in my life, when I wanted barrel racing success nearly as bad as I now want writing success. And I also think about Summer’s journey to where she is now.
It might not always be pleasant, and in fact, sometimes, things can get downright ugly, but the only way out (and up) is through.
Keep going, my friends. I know you, too, can achieve your dreams.