I am a young adult author and so are quite a few of my friends. We all write books for the same demographic, many of us are even published by the same publishing house. Two of us, in fact, share the same editor.
I've been thinking a lot lately about success, and about whether "making it" i.e. getting "there" is a limited track. Is the real estate of "there" no more than a few, small acres? Do we have to stake our claim, build our house and lock the door? Or is there really, in that land of plenty, space for us all?
The idea that success is limited is an easy one to believe. We buy into it, and often without even thinking. There aren't enough resources. Something for you means less for me. I understand it, too. It's the give and take of the human experience. If you have the apple, I can't then hold it at the same time...or can I?
Just over a year ago I didn't have a book deal. I was working a few different jobs, doing freelance, hoping and praying that what I saw happening to the people around me would start happening to me. It was hard, it was, at times, infuriating (why did they get this and not me?), but it was also inspiring. I saw people all around me, my friends, doing what it was I wanted to do. I saw it and even though I didn't have it, I wanted it so badly I could taste it. By knowing them, by existing with them, and by seeing their success, I got to be near it. I got to see it up close.
This past year I co-wrote a novel with a dear friend of mine who is also a young adult author. It was an incredible experience for a variety of reasons, but the top one, I think, is that it allowed me to open up my own definition of success. I've always believed in theory that a success for one is a success for all, but it wasn't until I held this particular project in my hands, with both our names on it, that I really, truly understood what that meant. And internalized it.
I want this book to be a success because it will benefit me, of course, but I also want it for my friend. In fact, I want it more for her. It's made me realize that what we've created together is bigger than both of us.
And the truth is? That didn't start with this novel we share. Her triumphs in her career, with her novels, have become my own. Because when we support one another, when we show up and really, truly, with our whole hearts want the best for each other, we get risen up. We get risen up as friends, as people, and, yes, as professionals. Seeing other's success, celebrating it, allows us to recognize it--- to get clear on what we want for ourselves, for our own lives. It wasn't until I watched her sell her first novel that I understood that was what I wanted. And it was also the moment I realized that what I wanted, was in fact possible.
Whenever someone asks me for career advice I always tell them to find a mentor. Find someone who has done what you want to do and study the way they got there. Trial and error is all well and good--but the process is lengthy, and if you're ambitious odds are you just don't have that kind of patience. There is someone who has come before you and there are people who are coming up beside you. Watch them, listen to them. Learn from their mistakes and try to re-imagine their successes. When someone around you succeeds it does not mean they've taken that spot from you. What it means is that you are in the atmosphere of someone who is creating. And that space, that house that they're beginning to build for themselves "there," needs a neighbor.
Sometimes jealousy comes with the territory, and we battle our demons with the best of them. Competition can motivating, sure. But the truth, the real truth, is that the belief that success is in some way limited, that it belongs to a few and a few only, is simply false. It doesn't. So the next time someone around wins big, celebrate it. Celebrate it for them but celebrate it, too, for yourself. You have admitted that what you want is possible, that it's right there for the taking. Reach out and grab that apple. You just might find that once you've held it, you're ready to pass it on.