I knew Taylor Swift growing up.
Like Ang Lee, for around 6 to 8 years Taylor acted in musicals, sang at festivals, entered competitions, and recorded demos. She was bad at first (sorry Taylor!), but she kept working at it. Every day, she was writing another lyric, or taking another guitar lesson, or auditioning for another play, or switching voice teachers. The reason I knew her was that I went to school with her (she was maybe in third grade when I was in 7th), I acted in plays with her, and I ran sound and make background tracks for her when she was 10 or so. I knew her mom and dad and brother too. I got to see her bildungsroman firsthand.
Then came her “overnight” success. And the press talked about her like she appeared on planet earth overnight. She was a sensation. All at once, you couldn’t walk outside your front door without hearing about Taylor Swift. It was surreal, having know the awkward girl from a few years earlier.
But what no one talked about was the years she forewent hanging out with other girls in middle school, watching TV and doing her hair with girlfriends in high school… all of the stuff that normal kids do. Playing sports, going on dates with boys… all of this was sacrificed. For Taylor, and Ang Lee, great sacrifice was made.
Success requires an obsession of sorts. You have to say, “I am going to accomplish this, come hell or high water.” Failure is not an option… it’s not even a word in the dictionary. There is only success. The buck has to stop with you; there’s no room for blaming other people, making excuses, or avoiding harsh realities. Whatever it takes to be successful, whether that’s hiring a speech coach, taking more classes at the university, learning etiquette, doing odd projects, finding a tutor, seeing a therapist, waking up at 6am to exercise… there is no limit. And that’s just the point — there is NO limit on what you have to be willing to undertake to achieve the goal.
I’ve grappled with what I’m going to say for years, but I now acknowledge it as a truism: If you stick with it, you’ll be successful. It doesn’t matter where you come from, who your parents are, what you know, who you know, or how you look. All that is required is a choice — a commitment to excellence.
Therefore, there’s only one rule in making it to the top: don’t quit.
— thejerz @ news.yc