The Mindset of Five Percent

Hello readers! It has been ten days since I decided to make writing my chosen profession. And today I am happy to announce I have entered the 5% of the 5% of the 5%. No, that is not regarding my financial security (I wish), it is a threshold you draw in the sand and stomp across, a threshold not just in writing but the pursuit of any goal.

I first learned of this five percent mindset about a month ago. I came across an article at work during lunch while scouring the net for a lighthouse on a hill. You see, I had heard for the fiftieth time “you know, a lot of people try to become authors.” I took the first forty-nine times silently, or at the most with a joke, to hide how equal parts infuriating and baffling the warning was. Did each person that told me that really think they were the first? Why would it be necessary to tell someone whose pursuing a dream, how many have traveled the same road and fallen by the wayside? Has anyone ever said, “you know, a lot of people try to work their whole lives in a cubicle so those above them may live a life of luxury”? I sure haven’t.

I knew any argument based on emotion would persuade no one. Despite the fact that what drives anyone towards a far-reaching dream is precisely that: emotion. I could say staring at my monitor for eight hours left me feeling no more satisfied than the previous thirty-two that week. I could tell them having the executives, who had the power to decide my fate at the company and in effect my entire life, not know my name made me feel less of a human than a cog in a machine.

I could tell them that writing a book meant every single person that read it would see my name below the title. That among the seven billion people on the planet, my name was known by someone, that they had made an effort to learn my name. Knowing such to be true would set my soul ablaze and make me write five more novels, no ten! Such a goal is worth putting in forty, sixty, eighty hours a week. A dream like that should be encouraged and celebrated. Right? Right?!

That’s all emotional though, that cannot be the foundation for my counter-argument. Instead, I perused the net for some statistic, some tangible proof that there were more successful writers than not. That is when I came across a great article by Kristin Lamb. (http://authorkristenlamb.com/2014/12/what-are-the-real-odds-of-being-a-successful-author/)

The article did not have any of the hard numbers I was looking for: salaries, number of successful writers, number of best-selling fantasy novels, etc. It instead had a soft number that hit me like a sledgehammer,

5%

5% were those who crossed every barrier towards success in any worthwhile goal. For myself as a writer, I reached the five percent mark by writing my first word. Not the first word of The Edge of Snow and Dust, but the first word of any creative writing. Because 95% of those who say they want to be an author never write that first word. I crossed another by writing a chapter, then another finishing my first draft, then another barrier by shredding my first draft with the savageness any editor would have. Then a month later another line and then another a week from that one, I leaped past another.

That powerful single-digit number wiped out every argument against pursuing my dream. “you know, a lot of people try to become authors” – but only 5% ever start. “A lot of people try to get published” – but only 5% research the proper format to submit it. That fiftieth person tried with the mindset of cubicles and monitors and executives to caution me against flying towards the sun. Each barrier they saw, each obstacle they were worried I never conquer; I told them that’s when 95% give up, I am the 5% that’s left.

A million people can try to become a writer, a singer, a performer, a professional athlete. But only 5% will even attempt to.

You do, you are now part of 50,000. Hmm, that is still a lot. But you spend months on researching story structure, music scales, method acting, the proper training regimes.

You’re part of 2,500. That’s good; we can do better. You find writing groups and coaches. You expose yourself, make an attempt, and you take every bit of criticism with an iron chin. You make adjustments, you reflect on yourself honestly. You do what only 5% do: you push forward.

125. You can break past that Top-100 barrier. Let’s run through it again. Write till that pencil snaps, sing till the rapports rattle, pour your soul into your video, sweat, bleed, work, focus!

SIX! You, me, us – we are one of six! Now do the math, and you’ll realize there are no more barriers. Only the exhilarating feeling when a stranger knows your name from a book in their hand, of seeing your song up on iTunes, watching the trailer for your movie, hearing the crowd screaming as you take the field.

5% . . . tomorrow I’ll push to that next 5%.

Leave a comment, a pledge on a goal you want to reach and the 5% barrier you have encountered and how you are going to push past it.

Take care!

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