August 5

Set Up for Another Year

A few years ago, I caught a short segment on the British Invasion on CNN (the musical one, not the military one), and I was snapped out of my half- attentive state by an interview with Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

He was asked how long he thought the Stones could continue their run of success. His answer?

“I think we’re pretty well set up for at least another year.”

Did I mention that this was said by Mick Jagger in1965?

In retrospect, statements like this seem ridiculous. Every big success

appears inevitable after the fact. However, work that eventually becomes recognized as great rarely feels inevitable while you’re engaged in the process of making it. Brilliant work is sometimes launched more with a shrug of the shoulders than a fist in the air. (Is this good? Not sure—I’m too deep into it.)

This is why expectation escalation can be so destructive to the creative process. When you compare your in-process work with the best of what- ever is out there, it can squelch the very process that you need to deliver your best. You must allow yourself to live with the fragility and angst of whether the work will be successful. Ultimately, that’s not your decision anyway.

And that is, I think, the genius of Jagger’s response. He didn’t seem too interested in the question. I really think he was giving it all he had to make the music great and to make the ride last as long as possible, whether a year or five or fifty.

Don’t believe the lie that success feels inevitable to the successful. On the inside, where all the risk is being taken, it often feels like things could fall apart at any moment, and that’s precisely how it should be.

Success only seems inevitable after the fact.


Are you allowing expectation escalation to cause you to feel your work isn’t good enough?

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