You Have a Secret … (recipe)

Everybody has a secret recipe for success.


Go on, even you.


You know it’s in there. Hidden away in your brain, locked tight for fear of exposure. Maybe floating smoke-like on the surface of consciousness, scarcely understood, waiting for solid form.

Or, out there for the world to see. Empowered, alive.

Wherever it is, committing to your own secret recipe for success isn’t always easy. You’re actually encouraged not to.

(more on that later.)

So, when somebody comes along seeming successful enough, claiming they’ll let you in on their fail-proof design for success, you buy in. An easier, lesser risk. Their recipe has already worked, right?  

You don’t quite trust your own ideas, so you jump ship for the tested and seemingly functional ideas of another. You figure, “Hey, their boat is moving. They must be better captains. Great! Now I don’t have to risk trying my own ideas [and possibly failing!].

In this process, you ignore:

#1) You were already on a boat.

#2) It was already moving (even if it didn’t feel like it).

There’s another thing about #1. Sometimes the boat you’re on when you jump ship isn’t even your own. You’ve already been a’boat-jumping! Your original vessel is out there—drifting, lonesome, waiting to feel the wind.

And that boat just needs some TLC. Engine clean up. Some algae off the rudders.

I’m really cruising with this boat metaphor amiriiight?


But I Don’t Even Like Boats! (or cooking!)

See, the tricky thing about this post is that I don’t want to sit here and seem like I’m saying all those other captains don’t have the secret recipe for success, but I do. I’m not saying that, and you’ll just have to trust me.

As we build that relationship of trust (falling exercises coming soon), see if you follow this next thought:

The people I most respect, admire, and/or follow aren’t out there actively pursuing my respect, admiration, and/or follows. They’re just doing their thing. Chugging along. Sometimes fiercely, yes, but their own captain all the same.

(Boating metaphor is here to stay!)

If it seems like they actively pursue followers, often they’re just paying someone to run their publicity stuff because hey, why not more fans and free money?

Then again, maybe your heroes and inspirations straight-up actively pursue more likes, endorsements, and audience affirmation. Maybe they’re not quite at the stage of being able to afford someone else. Maybe they truly desire consistent gratification from fans.

We’re not going to spend much time on that latter group—those who’ve “made it,” but still spend lots of time pursuing followers. Because no matter how wonderful they may be, a life spent chasing after others just doesn’t seem like a solid recipe for success. It certainly ain’t my recipe, and I don’t think it’s yours, either.

No shade toward the follow-seekers—it’s just that basing time around the reactions of others seems like the opposite of finding inner peace (which is, I’ll say, a synonym for success).

I get that we do it sometimes. Introvert or not, misanthrope or not, if you seek income from the online world, you (and I) recognize that more reach equals more odds of getting paid to do what you love.

It’s the double-edged sword of certain careers (like blogging, photography, art, whatever)—public recognition can be a game-changer.

lucky asian kitty


If Anything is Possible, How About Happiness?

But the people who’ve made it … they’re different, right? They had a unique something and they ran with it and they got lucky with success.

Must be nice.

Well, not exactly. Yes, they had a unique something. But you do, too. The difference between those who get to rock their style and those who don’t is not something that’s decided out there. It’s something that’s decided in you.

Don’t think getting paid for doing whatever you want is possible?

This girl did it just by talking about her pets (which, ahem, she was hoarding). This guy did it by gossiping about and drawing pictures on celebrities for his blog. These two did it by replaying other people’s videos and reactions to random things.

Nothing makes sense, so anything is possible!

Sooo, looking at the chuggers-along. The non-pursuers. The ones who do their thing whether you like it or not. Nelson Mandela, JK Rowling, the Obamas, Oprah, Stephen King, Bernie Sanders, David Bowie, Bob Ross!

(That’s a motley crew off the top of my head, but who am I forgetting? Leave a comment!)

Without my saying so, you probably understand that the ones making the biggest lasting impact don’t care whether you believe in their beliefs at all. They’re do their thing because their thing is the only thing they want to do.

They want your support, or they want you to get out of the way. Stay away from the oven. Just do the dishes. Keep your life vest on. Mix those metaphors!

What am I saying with all this?

Someone else’s secret recipe isn’t going to work for you.


A History of You

So. The ingredients comprising your secret recipe are insane. There are so many we can’t even keep track. Not millions—gajillions.

You began concocting as a baby. You didn’t even know it, but just watching your caregivers—absorbing what seemed/felt good and what seemed/felt bad—you were tossing ingredients all up into that pot.

As you grew, society entered the mix. You saw heroes and ne’er-do-wells in books and on TV. You heard news channels delineating good and bad. School peers gave you real life experience with the world (and opinions) outside your family unit.

Around this time, too, things started getting muddled.

Where in purer baby times you had a solid sense of like/dislike—represented mostly by crying, smiling, or wandering curiosity—now, you have parents, teachers, and peers saying things like:

“Don’t cry. You’re okay.”

“That’s stupid.”

“No, you like this, remember?”

“You shouldn’t do that.”

“You should be nicer/quieter/calmer/louder/etc.”

“You’ve changed.”

“They don’t know the real you.”

Many of these messages inform us of proper societal boundaries and can be helpful shaping us into functional human beings. But they can also make us very, very confused.

For better or worse, messages like the ones above teach us not to trust our impulses, instincts, and emotions. They often support the idea that we should always listen adults and/or the majority over what our desires might be.

(as a supposed “adult” who fraternizes with other “adults,” I can definitively say that we are not—at all—always right.)

So you know what? For the first decade or two of your life, your strongest primary examples of adulting are your parents and teachers, and you’re being told quite often that you should listen to them and follow their lead.

Also during those first couple decades, you spent the most time being exposed to your primary examples of adulting careers: (1) whatever your parents/caregivers did, and (2) the teaching profession.

If you grew up with messaging that you shouldn’t trust yourself and that you should trust the adults around you (no matter what!), things can get confusing.

If you had strong artist or entrepreneur-ish role models, then you had an early example that it was okay to follow your own secret recipe. But if you didn’t (and most of us didn’t) what you understood FOR DECADES—consciously or not—was that you should follow the secret recipe of others.

Listen to what is taught, believe it. Get a safe job, have a family, retire, and done. Boom. Now you followed the right recipe. You were a good boy/girl/prefer-not-to-be-gendered.

Decades (between 0 to 20-years-old and beyond) is a fair chunk of time to internalize something.

But the thing is, no matter how much you internalize, no matter how great you are at ignoring yourself, your self is always going to be there.


Daring Greatly to Raise Rabbits

So here we are, full circle.

You want the recipe to success? You already have it.

You’ve been concocting it since forever, filing the good here, the bad here, approval here, yikes over there. You know what you like, you know what feels right, and if you think you don’t, you’re not asking the right questions.

Everything you’ve experienced has been an ingredient or a toss. Everything has been the filter through which you refine your secret recipe. That’s why someone else’s can’t work for you. The odds of all their ingredients being the same as yours are just impossible.

For better or worse, there are just too many experiences that are only and uniquely yours.

Maybe some things will align, yes. You will have commonalities with other people’s recipes—ideas and feelings that are shared and similar.

That’s all good. Incorporate other ingredients all you want—it may well do you good.

Maybe some will bring more money, be a step in the right direction. But is a pot full of other people’s ingredients ultimately yours? Will you ultimately feel fulfilled?

Because personal fulfillment, from what I can tell, only comes from cooking your own stuff.

Or, if you’re really missing that boat metaphor right about now (awww shucks, guys!):

Big-picture fulfillment (i.e., real success) only comes from captaining your own boat.

That’s why some people raise and breed rabbits and that is totally e-freaking-nough. It has to be your own thing, and your own thing is constantly formed by and fluctuating with your totally unique and bonkers life. You just can’t fully share that with someone else.

jumping rabbits in a field

Maybe you saw a video of Evel Knievel as a kid and the thought lodged in you that that’s what happiness was. Maybe that thought has never gone away. That’s because you have to test out that ingredient, baby!

Maybe the life of a risk-taker will make you truly fulfilled. But maybe it’s just a flavor refinement needed to get closer to something else.

And maybe your whole life will be following random things, experimenting with random ingredients, and feeling fulfilled until you don’t anymore.

In that case, great! We should probably start a club. The Recipe-Never-Finished Club. 

If you want a secret recipe for success, you have it. You’re making it right now. Better get to the kitchen.

(and get on that boat!)

(and mix metaphors!)


Your thoughts? I’d love to hear ’em below (leave a comment!) … Oh, and get an email when I post something new.

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