I’ve had a few people say to me, “Wow, you’re good at everything.” That’s not really true, but there are some things I’ve become pretty good at. I get the impression that some people feel like it’s magical or that I have some special ability that others don’t have. But that’s not true.

To explain this, let me tell you something that my mother told me.

I’m a songwriter, and I remember when I was about 16, listening to a particular song that I really loved and saying out loud, “Wow, I could never do that.” My mother, who was in the car with me, said, “You experience that song in three minutes, but it took a lot longer than that to put it together, maybe 100 hours. So to you it seems magical when you see it, because you couldn’t have made it in three minutes.”

This is true of almost everything that I’m good at. I’ve been singing since I was four years old. I’ve been acting since I was about eight years old. I’ve been actively writing since I was about 12. I’ve spent decades looking up thousands of words in the dictionary, carefully going over each definition to make sure I fully understood each one. I’ve been working with computers since I was eight years old, and actually started my professional career in IT when I was 14 years old.

So when I show up and sing a song in three minutes and it sounds nice, or when I come to a meeting at work and I say something in 5 minutes that seems profound, it’s because there’s literally decades of experience behind those things.

The reason that I’m good at these things is because I was interested in them and I planned for the future. I’ve always believed that I would have to have a job some day. It seemed like computers would provide a good job. Plus, I liked computers and it was hard to get me to stay away from them, even when I was a kid. I worked toward that career one way or another, taking the opportunities that I found when they were available. Now I have a career as a software engineer.

There’s nothing especially magical about me except that I was aware of the future, and willing to do something for however long it took to get to that future. The most frequent issue I see with people is either (a) having no plan or (b) not working at the plan no matter how long it takes.

There are no “overnight successes.” Every single time you look into one of these “overnight successes,” they always had some huge dedication behind them. If you insist on instant gratification, or even gratification after just a few months, you’re going to live a disappointing life. Huge goals require huge work to get there. It doesn’t have to be extreme, grinding, physical labor or something. It doesn’t even have to be unpleasant. It just has to be done, however long it takes to do it.

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