My dad has told me many adages over the course of my life: "Desiree, be proud of your heritage;" "Desiree, knowledge is power;" "Desiree, a grasshopper hops not only because it can but because it wants to." Of all the things he’s ever told me, there is one that I remember most: The difference between those who do and those who don’t is that they do. It’s something that I share with people often, from friends to acquaintances to family. Now, I’m even sharing it with you. I imagine that I will continue to say it throughout my life, a sort of legacy of my father’s that I will always bear proudly. Why? Because it is a motto that everyone should live by, especially me, a chronically unfocused person living in an increasingly unfocused world.
In this adage, I see more than just the difference between those who don’t and those who do. I also see the fundamental reasons why we, yes, you and me, don’t succeed. Being a "do-er" requires certain characteristics, and maybe we don’t have them right now. That doesn’t mean we can’t develop them though. There are three fundamental reasons we don’t succeed: Lack of ambition. Lack of focus. Lack of determination.
The list seems a bit short, but let me explain. This is a condensed, most essential list to explain lack of success. These are the factors that you can control in your pursuit of success, of doing. I’m definitely not saying that things like the weather can’t affect your path to becoming a "do-er," but it surely won’t stop you in the long term if you keep at it.
Let’s start with a portrait of a "do-er" (A.K.A. a person defined by the action of doing).
"Do-ers’" dream of a better future and harness their ambition to bring their dreams to reality. (If you’re an engineer, your professor’s spiel might be something like, “You not only dream tomorrow; you engineer it!") More than dreaming, "do-ers" focus completely on their dream, truly focus and aren’t swayed by distractions (like that crazy article link on the side that we both really want to click on.) The "do-ers" remain firm despite their failures and rejections and foibles. In short, the "do-ers" do.
Here’s a piece of reality (and hopefully encouragement): You are capable. You can and have had million-dollar ideas, but so have the rest of the seven billion people in the world. The only way that you can ever become more than someone with a million-dollar idea is to implement it, otherwise, your million-dollar idea is only potential. Until it’s actualized, it isn’t worth much. It’s just a beautiful star in a sea of stars, pretty but not remarkable. Maybe now you are incredibly inspired, or maybe you’re a little skeptical. I just sounded a little like an ad, or maybe more like those commercials about how kids can do anything? Either way, here’s a better explanation of do-ers:
"All men dream: But not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake up in the day to find it was vanity, but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible.” — T.E. Lawrence, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph"
Ambition (aka desire or energy)
Dreaming is easy. Reality isn’t. Reality is made of tangible things like sweat and tears and work and pain. Day after day you will have to continue working towards this dream, and maybe because of the monotony of your routine or the unexpected difficulty, you will wonder if this dream was worth it, but when those moments come, have vision. Don’t be afraid to be ambitious in your dreams, and when it comes times to execute them, desire them so much that you can’t bear to live without realizing these dreams. Desire them desperately. If you don’t, you will give up somewhere along the line between the sweat, tears and rejection.
Focus (aka central point of attraction, attention or activity)
Wanting isn’t synonymous to getting. Thus, you’ll need more than just ambition: You need to be focused on that ambition and in your approach to execute your plans. We can only get so far when we bounce from seventeen different dreams or approaches. So take a breather. I know that you want to accomplish a thousand and one dreams. You will, but pace yourself first. Distinguish the dreams you live for from the dreams you like to think on from time to time. At the end of the day, we’ll only live so many days. Just think: In 20 years from now, is this the dream I want to have used this day for? If this were my last day, is this what I want to have done? Take a moment and focus. You’ll get your greatest dreams done.
Determination (aka coming to a decision, having intent or resoluteness)
The road to success is paved with failure, both big and small. Without determination, will you stay by your dream? After no after no after no? After callous rejection? After humiliation? Doubt? You have to be determined to the point where there is no going back. No cold feet for you. What’s more, fuel your determination with some attitude tweaks. Rejection, criticism, failure? Like I said before, these are the building blocks to your success. They help improve your dream and your execution. Not only do you learn about yourself, but you learn better ways to handle something. What’s more, every single rejection, criticism, failure and doubt should add fuel to the fire. They are just one more reason to prove them wrong. Some doors will take longer to open, but don’t lose that ambition.
All right, all right, I’ve spoken on my soapbox, but I’ll be honest with you. The struggle to be a "do-er" is constant. No one can escape it, not even after you’ve succeeded 12-million times or already have your dream in motion. Even after success, you have to keep at it, because naturally, the world degrades. Which is why you have to constantly be there to patch any cracks in your dreams, actualized or not. On the bright side, this means there’ll always be something to keep us busy.
I’m not the best example of a "do-er." I’m not a self-made millionaire or a leader in my field. That’s OK. What I am is a "do-er" probably a lot like you. Even my small victories are enough, and I constantly push myself for excellence even when my unfocused ways work against me. Either way, I know with certainty, even as I sit here surrounded by my dogs and cat, that I will someday become a great "do-er," a dangerous dreamer of the day. For now, I just have to keep doing and walking the road to success, the one paved with failures big and small. “So, Desiree," you may ask, “what’s your ambition right now? What are you doing?” In the short term, I’m working towards my real estate license and learning Chinese. Over the next five years? I want to do freelance journalism, have a double major in bioengineering and global studies and even start medical school. I’ve started my road to success with small steps like my hard high school course-load, maximizing my summer and joining Fresh U and plenty of failures like not getting to my dream college and not doing well on my ACT. The road’s been winding and bumpy and long, but I’ll keep walking it, slowly but steadily until I reach my goals.
Before I close off though, here are some tips from my own struggle to be a "do-er."
For me, my struggle boils down to lack of focus. My ambitions range from music to writing to medicine; the list goes on. And over the course of my failures and successes, I’ve figured out that the key isn’t eliminating all of my interests but shrinking down the list so I can truly focus on each of my ambitions.
Find like-minded people and mentors including your family and friends to keep you accountable. Sometimes it’s easy to forget your dream, so outside input is always welcome.
Stay organized with a planner and a one-year and five-year plan to keep you on track over the long term.
Many people have wondered why others don’t succeed. Is it their opportunity? Or their environment? An innate success gene? Some people have greater opportunity or other advantages, like education and socioeconomic status, but that isn’t what determines success. Success is a combination of ambition, focus and determination. Like I said earlier: You have and will continue to have million-dollar ideas. The question isn’t if you can dream it or if you can do it. The question is if you will. Ability is not a constraint. So be ambitious, be focused, be determined. Do it. When you find the time, tell me about what you’ve done. I can’t wait to hear about it.
Lead Image Credit: Pexels