The Iceberg of Success

A friend of mine once wanted to be an actor, so she attended a very prominent university known for its drama department. Like the vast majority of her graduating class, she ended up giving up on her dream career. For many of them, the acting jobs were too few and far between. So, at a certain point she gave into the idea that she didn’t have what it took to make it as an actor and quit.

She tells me at least once a month that she has an “OMG, I know that person!” moment, the latest of which was seeing Joe Manganiello sharing the screen with Paul Ruebens in a preview of the upcoming Netflix movie, “Pee Wee’s Big Holiday.” Joe’s career has been building for years, but to her this marked him “making it big.”

Discussing her excitement the other day, she remarked that it’s been 15 years since she was at school with Joe; that it took that long for him the remaining few acting students who stuck it out to “make it.”

I reminded her such a long timeline to success isn’t actually that out of the ordinary. George Clooney spent 10 years acting on everything from The Facts of Life to Roseanne, before he landed his breakthrough role as Dr. Doug Ross on ER.

Contemplating this my friend recalled how she watched Joe take university classes by day, act in professional theatre at night, and take roles in New York over the summers. Nothing was too small. Then, when he moved to Los Angeles, he wasn’t just acting, but directing and producing as well.

In any pursuit, it is always prudent to cut your losses and move on when the situation points you in that direction. But, I’m willing to bet, if my friend had fully understood what Joe was going through at the same time she was still pursuing her acting career — the blood, sweat and tears, but also the lessons and successes — she would not have given up so easily.

With any person you encounter — be it a celebrity, politician or new friend at a networking event — you are likely only seeing the tip of their success iceberg. The money, fame, influence, and possessions are all visible signs of success, but they are only the outcomes of a much larger life experience sitting below the surface.

Hidden under the water are the elements that really make up success. It’s the hard work, persistence, and discipline. It’s the rejections they suffered and overcame, the courage they built, the criticism they took to hear, the risks, good habits, dedication, innovation, passion, self honesty, healthy thoughts and more.

When we see successful people and wish we had what they have, it can be very demoralizing if we fail to consider what it took for them to achieve those accomplishments. Success almost never happens overnight. And on those rare occasions when it does, it fades away just as quickly.

By looking at it from another angle, however, you can be inspired knowing that you can and do hold all the same attributes they they do. You know how to work hard and overcome challenges and criticisms. Just like them you can be innovative, dedicated, courageous and passionate. All it takes is the determination to keep moving forward.

Think about an aspect of your life where you wish you were more successful. Ask yourself, have you been doing everything you could to make that part of your life a success? If not, what’s been holding you back, and what is one thing you can do today to overcome that barrier?

“All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them.” — Walt Disney

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