If you caught my post on climbing your own "creative" family tree, you may have spotted Steve Martin among the branches on my own little tree of inspiration. He's on there for a few reasons: one- his sense of humor and being such a "wild and crazy" guy. I also have my own random thing about how he would have to play my Dad in a movie and I'll always love him as neurotic George with a daughter named Annie in Father of the Bride. Those things aside, what I'm really inspired by these days is how Steve Martin became the person and household name we all know today.
In 2007, Charlie Rose interviewed Steve Martin and asked him what does he tell people who come up to him and ask "how do I get an agent? how do I become a writer? a stand-up comedian? etc." Steve's answer: "Be so good they can't ignore you. If somebody's thinking, ‘How can I be really good?' people are going to come to you."
Be so good they can't ignore you.
It's super simple and yet it's transfixed me for months since I picked it up from this original article on Lifehacker back in October. The article talks about a new book on career advice inspired by this quote. For me, this quote has become more than career advice- it's life advice and it's been a driving force behind launching anniemade.
Let me explain.
Be so good they can't ignore you- to me, it's the notion that in order to really make it- you've got to already be being yourself in a big, brave (and usually unpaid) way. Career and life-wise. If you ever read Steve's memoirs about his early career Born Standing Up you may be struck by one of the biggest insights I got from it. See, growing up- Steve Martin was always famous to me. But it was eye-opening to read about how he struggled from his days working in the magic shop in the Disney Parks, to gig after gig, for fifteen years with spurts of success and failure along the way. Even in that time, after being on national television multiple times, he still had to work on his signature act and it still took him more than a decade and a half to really be the guy we all know in the public consciousness.
What this tells me is that it takes time, even when you're striving on that Robert Frost "road not taken" and following the advice to be the "you" you wish to see in the world. It's easy to get inspired for a brief time and it's imposing to think how long the road could be.
We live in a world sometimes where it feels like you've got to catch up to everyone else, copy what they are doing, or just get to that next career level position but I'm starting to think Steve Martin is one example of why that focus should shift. And expecting life or a job to one day hand over an opportunity to show what we are capable of (if we just meet the right person, get our script in the right hands, get the right house, etc.) is really an attitude of all strategy and no product.
No matter where you are now or your situation - whatever the "you" product or "you" brand is, you should be developing it on your own time, fueled by your own conviction and passion, if you are ever going to get there. And there's power in the journey too. It's not meant to be easy- but that's probably why it's so worth doing. Austin Kleon touches on this also in Steal Like An Artistwhen he says the secret to success is "Do good work and share it with people." After all, aren't we all looking for something and/or someone great ourselves? Sooner or later, the attraction is inevitable.
source // photography by norman seeff