You don’t get what you wish for

It’s a simple truism that is all too often forgotten or ignored as we age: You don’t get what you wish for. You only get what you work for. And more often than not you’ll only see a percentage of that.

Being a grown-up can be tough.

Certainly any one of us might hope to one day wake up in a larger, more beautiful home. We might wish to find a Bentley or a Mercedes Benz in the garage. It would bring a smile to our faces to find a zippy new airplane in the hangar, and a bank account that has swelled in size overnight to include at least a couple extra zeros.

But none of that is likely to happen for most of us for the simple reason that we wish for it rather than work for it.

Of course working is only part of the deal. Working diligently, even feverishly, without direction often results in no more progress than does sitting on the couch eating Cheetos by the bag.

You have to plan. You have to encourage others to look your plan over, find the flaws, help you correct those weaknesses, and reformulate a better, more plausible plan that increases your chances of success.

Yes, this is a real world observation.

I spent some time this past weekend with a young man who has an outstanding goal, but no solid plan to get there. He’s been working on his dream for more than two years now, but he’s no closer to realizing his dream than he was on the first day. In fact he may be farther from it. After spending considerable sums of money, a staggering number of hours, and exhausting himself in the process, he was less sure of himself when we sat down than he had been when he started.

That’s the good news. This young man has mounted the first mountain obstructing his path to success and he’s turning it into a molehill. He’s recognized his best efforts are insufficient to reach his goal.

That’s not to say his goal is inconsequential, because it’s not. It’s not to suggest that he is incapable of doing the work he wants to do, because he clearly can do it and excel at it. He’s simply realized the job is more nuanced than he originally realized it was, his drive to fill a void in the market is not working as well as he’d hoped it would, and so he’s done the one thing that might — just might — turn his fortunes around and bring him to the promised land of black ink and happy customers. He’s asked for help.

It’s surprising how many of us avoid admitting our failings. Some of us even go so far as to deny we have any deficiencies in our skill sets. Admittedly, it can be humbling to accept the limitations that are built into us. Some are unique, some are ubiquitous. It makes no difference in the long run.

We all have limits, even if we would prefer to think otherwise. The successful among us identify those weaknesses, accept the reality of those limitations, and work to overcome them. Sometimes we do it by educating ourselves. Sometimes we do it by developing a new skill. Often we do it by hiring someone who has the skills we do not.

In short, sometimes you can fix the leak yourself. Sometimes it’s best to call a plumber.

My young friend has just increased his chances of achieving success dramatically. By acknowledging a weakness, seeking out a means of strengthening that weakness, and in the process growing the circle of involved stakeholders in his dream, he’s developing a stronger, more resilient, more capable team. He’s not wishing for success, he’s working for it. And he’s encouraging others with talent, conviction, and resources to come aboard and help him make the most of his vision of the future.

It has been said that it’s better to own half a success than 100% of a failure. There is truth in that expression.

The specifics of the endeavor are immaterial. It hardly matters if the young man I spent time with was trying to form a new flying club, or develop a program to mentor disadvantaged youth. He could be attempting to build widgets or sell wombats. The specifics are beside the point. He hit a wall, found a way to build a ladder, and now he’s back on track.

That’s where success happens. Important synonyms like perseverance, persistence, stick-to-it-iveness, and the good ol’ college try, when combined with selfless determination, result in a very powerful cocktail of real potential.

There’s still much to do, but the path is now more clear for my young friend. His ability to know that the next step in his journey will be a productive one, and the step after that will lead to new opportunities – that matters.

No, he didn’t get what he wished for. Not yet at least. But he’s learning how to work productively to achieve his goals — and that’s where the real magic happens. 

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