Steve Martin is one of the most famous comedians of the 20th century, and many “modern” devices that young people think are so novel actually have their roots in Martin’s work. Martin is a highly accomplished stand-up comedian, writer, actor, and musician…
…but how did he do it?
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In his memoirs, Born Standing Up, Martin wanted to share his insights on how he achieved his success, not just what he achieved. His advices inspiring, spot-on, and can help you achieve your goals in any activity or field. I want to share the essence of what I’m going to call the “Steve Martin Method of Achieving Your Goals” with you here.
When people ask Martin what his secret to success in the entertainment industry, his answer usually disappoints. It’s one, unsexy line and it’s very simple. Here’s what he tells them:
“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Before you dismiss this as clichéd, let it sink in because it captures the essence of achieving your goals, big and small, in any area of your life.
While his “secret” might seem daunting, it can actually be invigorating. It simplifies the quest for success, which is often made to look very complex and overwhelming. What Martin is saying is forget the secret backdoors, the gimmicks and tricks, the frustration of feeling like you’re missing some mystical element, and focus on just one thing:
Become really damn good at something. Become extraordinary at it. Better than everyone you know. So good that people couldn’t help but be amazed.
If you do this, you’ve almost guaranteed your success. All you have to do then is get out in the world and show your skills, which is all too easy in this age of instant, worldwide communication channels.
Martin had two other powerful pieces of advice that will help you apply his one-step-to-success.
Going through the motions to “put in your time” isn’t enough to become outstanding. You need a restless desire to figure out new, better ways to do things. You can’t be afraid to experiment and learn from the successes and failures.
Don’t be content with just following the crowd. Take the time to understand the principles and laws of the activity and look to others to see what they do well and what they don’t, and then dream up new ways to mix, match, stretch, and augment these things into something new and better.
Martin said he owes his success to his diligence in one field at a time until he had mastered it. He resisted the urge to branch off into other, new types of work or projects.
In today’s age of never-ending distractions and possibilities, it can feel a bit counter-intuitive to sharpen your ambitions to a razor’s edge, but it’s one of the little-acknowledged common denominators among successful people.
Martin was right when he said that if you don’t align your entire life with one, singular quest for greatness, you’ll dilute your focus and drive to a point where becoming extraordinary is not possible.
So, if you want to achieve your goals, whether they be personal endeavors or greater undertakings, forget about comparing yourself to others, groping for shortcuts, wondering about what it really takes, or worrying about if you’ll make it. Instead, ask yourself this question:
“Am I so good that I can’t be ignored yet?”
If your honest answer is “no,” then you’ve taken your first step toward achieving your goals because now you know what needs to happen. Start applying the Steve Martin Method and one day, if you see it through, you’ll not only achieve your goals, you’ll achieve greatness.