The Spiky, Geographic Nature of Success

 

This post was inspired by the wonderful and incredibly good-looking Jonny Gibaud over at The Life Thing. Today he released The Success Ebook, which you should check out because it’s neat. Download the free ebook here.

Comical Goals

When I was a wee lad, I was certain I would be the next Todd McFarlane.

I was going to be a comic book creator of such prestige and influence that I would end up with movie deals for the worlds I would envision and illustrate, along with action figures that the children of the world would beg their parents for. I would be edgy and maintain a standard of excellence not found in the comic book industry at the time.

The Art of Success

That dream lasted until I discovered the worlds of fine art and journalism. Both captured my imagination around the same time, and I had plans – HUGE plans – to be a big-time journalist in the tradition of Woodward and Bernstein, uncovering big stories and informing the public. On the side I would create striking and clever editorial cartoons that would bring the big issues to the public in a manner they could understand. In my remaining free time, I would paint contemporary works of art that would capture the popular imagination and excite the connoisseur, maybe opening my own gallery in SoHo with an interior that would be as glorious as the works on the wall.

Designing a Successful Life

Then I went to college and discovered design, a term I knew, of course, but I always figured it was just laying out ads for newspapers; honestly it wasn’t terribly clear to me where art ended and design began. Once I learned the difference, my journalistic and fine art endeavors took a back seat as I threw myself into my newly-discovered passion, intending to be the next Sagmeister or a contemporary Milton Glaser; upsetting the status quo, experimenting as a methodology and pushing myself ruthlessly to develop a unique style and approach.

At this point the dream was to open up an uber-awesome studio in New York that would be known for innovation and high-quality work. I would take on projects large and small, from the most niche gig poster to wall graphics for newly-renovated skyscrapers. My only condition to take on a project would be creative freedom and the potential end result of the work.

The Harsh Reality

This vision of my future lasted until I moved to Los Angeles and started working for a boutique studio right after I graduated from college. I had so many ideas of how things could be run, how things SHOULD operate and could be done better, but for a studio with overhead – salaries to pay, doors to keep open, bureaucracy to navigate – the people in charge generally have to be very selective in what projects are taken, but the criteria is not quality, it’s monetary. You go after the low-hanging fruit – the projects that can be knocked out with templates or done by cheap-third parties – or you can’t compete.

This isn’t an absolute, of course as there are MANY really great studios out there do that amazingly high-quality work consistently. The trouble is that MOST studios operate this way, and if you are one of the idealistic few who demand quality in everything you make for a client, you’ll likely have a hard time competing with the bargain basement prices of your competitors.

C’est la vie.

The Business of Success

Fortunately during my college design frenzy I racked up a whole lot of business experience when I started two companies and made a whole lot of mistakes (and a few ridiculously excellent successes). I decided to get the bitter taste of ‘the real world’ of the design business out of my mouth by starting up my own studio, and after a whole lot of hard work I had (on a very small scale) the kind of studio I was lusting after for so long.

But the funny thing about success is that once you’ve achieved it, there are always new horizons. After a few years in LA, with a successful (and very rapidly growing) business, I had a terrible realization.

I was starting to plateau, slowly but surely.

The Geography of Success

I wasn’t at the top at this point, and I’m still not, but after a series of very interesting and tempting opportunities came my way, I could SEE the top. And I panicked…there was nothing else beyond it. It was the end of the Earth, and once I got up there, I’d be stuck. I would have to be certain to buy a comfy chair, because I wouldn’t be going anywhere.

So rather than risk losing my sanity to boredom, I set my sites across international borders at the most difficult thing I could possibly think of: throwing myself into new situations daily, where sink or swim is a constant reality and miniature victories and defeats would have me tip-toeing the line between success and failure every moment of every day.

A Nice Change of Landscape

Is this an extreme solution? Of course! But it’s the only way I could think of to solve the horizon problem of success – that is, the fact that even the most fantastic ambition can be achieved and when someone reaches the highest peak they can imagine, they can either plateau or jump headfirst off the ridge.

I chose to move to a new geographic region completely, one in which there are an infinite number of mountains to scale, and many of them are connected. I can reach the top of a mountain every day if I like, but there will ALWAYS be a higher peak off in the distance to conquer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

32 comments

  1. When you can look at your goals and acknowledge that many of them aren’t timeless, I think you’re heading toward a more realistic path to success. Sometimes the best idea you can have is to let go of a goal that doesn’t serve you anymore.

    Though I am sure there is still the genius comic book creator in you, it pleases me to see that you have moved on to accomplish so many greater, dare I say more relavent, things.

    Also, it’s refreshing to see someone like you who no longer gauges his success by who he is like. Glad to see that you’re not the next Milton Glaser, but instead the first Colin Wright. (The first worth noting anyway :P)

  2. When you can look at your goals and acknowledge that many of them aren’t timeless, I think you’re heading toward a more realistic path to success. Sometimes the best idea you can have is to let go of a goal that doesn’t serve you anymore.

    Though I am sure there is still the genius comic book creator in you, it pleases me to see that you have moved on to accomplish so many greater, dare I say more relavent, things.

    Also, it’s refreshing to see someone like you who no longer gauges his success by who he is like. Glad to see that you’re not the next Milton Glaser, but instead the first Colin Wright. (The first worth noting anyway :P)

  3. When you can look at your goals and acknowledge that many of them aren’t timeless, I think you’re heading toward a more realistic path to success. Sometimes the best idea you can have is to let go of a goal that doesn’t serve you anymore.

    Though I am sure there is still the genius comic book creator in you, it pleases me to see that you have moved on to accomplish so many greater, dare I say more relavent, things.

    Also, it’s refreshing to see someone like you who no longer gauges his success by who he is like. Glad to see that you’re not the next Milton Glaser, but instead the first Colin Wright. (The first worth noting anyway :P)

  4. When you can look at your goals and acknowledge that many of them aren’t timeless, I think you’re heading toward a more realistic path to success. Sometimes the best idea you can have is to let go of a goal that doesn’t serve you anymore.

    Though I am sure there is still the genius comic book creator in you, it pleases me to see that you have moved on to accomplish so many greater, dare I say more relavent, things.

    Also, it’s refreshing to see someone like you who no longer gauges his success by who he is like. Glad to see that you’re not the next Milton Glaser, but instead the first Colin Wright. (The first worth noting anyway :P)

  5. Nice post Colin,

    I was the same in my business. When my business was expanding and the future was unlimited everything was fun and challenging.

    Then I started to plateau and I switched from being an entrepreneur to a manager. That is when it is time to change. Maybe it means less money. Maybe it is more work. It is definitely more challenge, but that is what makes life interesting.

  6. Nice post Colin,

    I was the same in my business. When my business was expanding and the future was unlimited everything was fun and challenging.

    Then I started to plateau and I switched from being an entrepreneur to a manager. That is when it is time to change. Maybe it means less money. Maybe it is more work. It is definitely more challenge, but that is what makes life interesting.

  7. Nice post Colin,

    I was the same in my business. When my business was expanding and the future was unlimited everything was fun and challenging.

    Then I started to plateau and I switched from being an entrepreneur to a manager. That is when it is time to change. Maybe it means less money. Maybe it is more work. It is definitely more challenge, but that is what makes life interesting.

  8. Nice post Colin,

    I was the same in my business. When my business was expanding and the future was unlimited everything was fun and challenging.

    Then I started to plateau and I switched from being an entrepreneur to a manager. That is when it is time to change. Maybe it means less money. Maybe it is more work. It is definitely more challenge, but that is what makes life interesting.

  9. I echo Kristin’s point in that I think you’ve reached the happy point of measuring success against yourself, not trying to be the next, whomever.

    If we could get that message ingrained into all school age kids, we’d have an amazing legion of special people making great change and, hopefully, overthrowing a fair bit of the bureaucracy that is evident in nearly every industry.

    Thanks for the great article,

    – Charley

  10. I echo Kristin’s point in that I think you’ve reached the happy point of measuring success against yourself, not trying to be the next, whomever.

    If we could get that message ingrained into all school age kids, we’d have an amazing legion of special people making great change and, hopefully, overthrowing a fair bit of the bureaucracy that is evident in nearly every industry.

    Thanks for the great article,

    – Charley

  11. I echo Kristin’s point in that I think you’ve reached the happy point of measuring success against yourself, not trying to be the next, whomever.

    If we could get that message ingrained into all school age kids, we’d have an amazing legion of special people making great change and, hopefully, overthrowing a fair bit of the bureaucracy that is evident in nearly every industry.

    Thanks for the great article,

    – Charley

  12. Very interesting post!

    I must say I’m really happy that you followed one of the most important rules out there: “If you are reaching your comfort zone, escape from it!” Can’t remember where I heard it. =/

    I really can’t say much about it, just keep going! You have the support from this community, which you started. And don’t worry about the past dreams, I thought I would be a doctor and now I code for life, a HUGE change I guess.

    Keep yourself on the road to your dreams man, and don’t worry not even the sky is the limit.

  13. Very interesting post!

    I must say I’m really happy that you followed one of the most important rules out there: “If you are reaching your comfort zone, escape from it!” Can’t remember where I heard it. =/

    I really can’t say much about it, just keep going! You have the support from this community, which you started. And don’t worry about the past dreams, I thought I would be a doctor and now I code for life, a HUGE change I guess.

    Keep yourself on the road to your dreams man, and don’t worry not even the sky is the limit.

  14. Very interesting post!

    I must say I’m really happy that you followed one of the most important rules out there: “If you are reaching your comfort zone, escape from it!” Can’t remember where I heard it. =/

    I really can’t say much about it, just keep going! You have the support from this community, which you started. And don’t worry about the past dreams, I thought I would be a doctor and now I code for life, a HUGE change I guess.

    Keep yourself on the road to your dreams man, and don’t worry not even the sky is the limit.

  15. Very interesting post!

    I must say I’m really happy that you followed one of the most important rules out there: “If you are reaching your comfort zone, escape from it!” Can’t remember where I heard it. =/

    I really can’t say much about it, just keep going! You have the support from this community, which you started. And don’t worry about the past dreams, I thought I would be a doctor and now I code for life, a HUGE change I guess.

    Keep yourself on the road to your dreams man, and don’t worry not even the sky is the limit.

  16. What a great post. I liked the mountain analogy very much. It’s funny, I think one could use mountains, and the concept of climbing them to make just about any point one wants about life. Very effective.

    As I read, I immediately started to hark back to my own life. My own trajectory, and began to retrace my steps as you did. I suppose I have come to similar conclusions, albeit a bit further on down the road.

    Lately, I have been thinking of ACTUALLY climbing certain well known peaks around the world. Really testing, literally, how high I can go. Kilimanjaro, Orizaba, Aconcagua, and others come to mind.

    I recently interviewed a high-alpine guide, Adrian Ballinger, on my site, and he’s got me all jacked up.

    Again, great post. Well said, well written, and a joy to read.

  17. What a great post. I liked the mountain analogy very much. It’s funny, I think one could use mountains, and the concept of climbing them to make just about any point one wants about life. Very effective.

    As I read, I immediately started to hark back to my own life. My own trajectory, and began to retrace my steps as you did. I suppose I have come to similar conclusions, albeit a bit further on down the road.

    Lately, I have been thinking of ACTUALLY climbing certain well known peaks around the world. Really testing, literally, how high I can go. Kilimanjaro, Orizaba, Aconcagua, and others come to mind.

    I recently interviewed a high-alpine guide, Adrian Ballinger, on my site, and he’s got me all jacked up.

    Again, great post. Well said, well written, and a joy to read.

  18. What a great post. I liked the mountain analogy very much. It’s funny, I think one could use mountains, and the concept of climbing them to make just about any point one wants about life. Very effective.

    As I read, I immediately started to hark back to my own life. My own trajectory, and began to retrace my steps as you did. I suppose I have come to similar conclusions, albeit a bit further on down the road.

    Lately, I have been thinking of ACTUALLY climbing certain well known peaks around the world. Really testing, literally, how high I can go. Kilimanjaro, Orizaba, Aconcagua, and others come to mind.

    I recently interviewed a high-alpine guide, Adrian Ballinger, on my site, and he’s got me all jacked up.

    Again, great post. Well said, well written, and a joy to read.

  19. What a great post. I liked the mountain analogy very much. It’s funny, I think one could use mountains, and the concept of climbing them to make just about any point one wants about life. Very effective.

    As I read, I immediately started to hark back to my own life. My own trajectory, and began to retrace my steps as you did. I suppose I have come to similar conclusions, albeit a bit further on down the road.

    Lately, I have been thinking of ACTUALLY climbing certain well known peaks around the world. Really testing, literally, how high I can go. Kilimanjaro, Orizaba, Aconcagua, and others come to mind.

    I recently interviewed a high-alpine guide, Adrian Ballinger, on my site, and he’s got me all jacked up.

    Again, great post. Well said, well written, and a joy to read.

  20. There is definitely an addictive side to overcoming challenges and reaching the goals that we set for our selves. I think this is a good thing, while the constant striving can become tiring it is only when we push our selves beyond our limits that we start to grow.

  21. There is definitely an addictive side to overcoming challenges and reaching the goals that we set for our selves. I think this is a good thing, while the constant striving can become tiring it is only when we push our selves beyond our limits that we start to grow.

  22. There is definitely an addictive side to overcoming challenges and reaching the goals that we set for our selves. I think this is a good thing, while the constant striving can become tiring it is only when we push our selves beyond our limits that we start to grow.

  23. There is definitely an addictive side to overcoming challenges and reaching the goals that we set for our selves. I think this is a good thing, while the constant striving can become tiring it is only when we push our selves beyond our limits that we start to grow.

  24. Pingback: Success Posts From Around The World | thelifething.com

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