By Dr. Jeffrey Lant
Author’s program note. I didn’t have to look for the perfect tune to accompany this article. I’ve known it for decades. “I’m still here,” from Stephen Sondheim’s incredible musical “Follies” (1971). It’s a song about grit, determination, doing what you have to do with the person you must do it with… to move up, move on, and force the big guys at the top to move over. This is the song you listen to on days when the recalcitrant world is just not going the way you want… it’s the song you listen to when you mean to change that… and try again, because that’s what winners do and losers can’t even imagine. Go to any search engine now… go into a room all by yourself, the better to turn up the volume to the ear-shattering range… and let Sondheim’s incredible music waft you to the place of your dreams… then listen to what you have to do to get there!
In the days before Hurricane Katrina, I used to frequently teach marketing communications at the University of New Orleans. My classes were held on week days downtown and on Saturday’s on Lake Pontchartrain, whose name I loved, coming as it does from a great French statesman who had the infinite good sense to be painted by Robert Le Vrac de Tournieres (1667-1752). I loved that picture from the first moment I saw it… and I loved New Orleans, too, its people, its spirit, its often painful madcappery and self destruction. When I came to know about “A Confederacy of Dunces” by John Kennedy Toole (published 1980), I read it with an avidity fed by its macabre history; (the author had to commit suicide before any publisher would condescend to review it; it then went on to win the Pulitzer Prize). From the very moment I left my hotel room (where I spent the absolute minimum amount of time) adventures were drawn to me, because they knew I was completely receptive to them.
Her name was Yvette…
On my very first day in New Orleans (it was a Friday), I stayed in a big, fancy hotel just off the French Quarter. I never made that mistake again; on my many future visits I always stayed in a little hotel in the Quarter, steps from the wonderful people I met who filled me with admiration for their zest for living and unadulterated joy under unremitting duress.
The first person who met me (note the language) was a person who looked to me like Tinkerbell on something. He walked up to me and said, “Honey, I can tell you are new to La Nouvelle Orleans. Let me be your guide”. I had never, and I mean never, been spoken to like that… but I recognized in these words Fate’s distinctive messenger. I accepted, bought my guide a drink… and in due course, having gleaned without difficulty but with some incredulity that I was a writer, he said, “But you must meet Yvette.” Of course, I must. That too was Fate…
She was, as the French say, a woman of a certain age; that might have been anything from forty into eternity. I knew at once she had that unmistakable quality the Parisians call “chien”. Yes, I know that means “dog”, and its English connotations are not good… but she had, and unmistakenly, that mixture of age, chic, dress sense, allure and brass that forces one involuntarily to look back and be sad that vision is rushing to be with someone else. But this time, perhaps for the first time, this woman with a Past was going to influence my future… and I was ready to hear whatever she said.
The conversation turned to life… it always does in the French Quarter with such people as Yvette. With each drink (and there were many) came another piquant observation that convinced me “real” life and I had only a nodding acquaintance. Yvette knew the vicissitudes of life inside and out… and I was bright enough to pay close attention to her observations, often as diamond sharp as Madame de Sevigne (1626-1696). This one completely arrested my attention:
“Darlin’, everybody hustles. It’s just a question of how, when and where.” It instantly occurred to me that this is precisely the element missing from far too many of my business students and people starting and running businesses generally. They are running businesses; they are not hustling for success as if their very lives were dependant on it… and that was the reason so many of them were barely getting by and wondering why, when they were such good and proper folk.
It’s because they were missing what Yvette had to spare: hustle. In short they wanted success, but they wanted it on their terms… which just ain’t gonna happen.
YOU say you want success, but (for whatever reason) you are not willing to work all the necessary hours it takes to achieve success. SUCCESS says, “You will work as many hours as it takes to capture me… not merely the hours you wish to work.”
YOU say you want success, but are not willing to work evenings, week-ends, even standard holidays. SUCCESS says, “If you want me, you must be willing to sacrifice time you’d like to use for other things. Choose!”
YOU say you want success, but you’ll only do jobs that make you such-and-such amount. SUCCESS says, “If you want the money, stoop to conquer. When you’ve got the money you want, then you can afford to be so picky. But that day hasn’t dawned yet.”
YOU say you want success, but your spouse is doing everything but put you in a cage to make sure you can’t achieve it. SUCCESS says “Sugarbabe, there are more good women and men in the sea than those who’ve come out. Dig my meaning?”
YOU say you want success, but you’ll only look at business opportunities that cost you nothing. SUCCESS says “Lambikins, ain’t nothin’ ever come from nothin’. You’ve gotta invest to get a return on that investment.”
YOU say you want success, but you are not willing to do the necessary homework and due diligence to ensure that what you do delivers the substantial rewards you want. SUCCESS says, “Quit trying to beat the system. People who make money are constant, never-ceasing students of success. They review each and every thing to understand how it works… then follow the directions EXACTLY to achieve success. They are not trying to cut corners, because they know that doesn’t work.”
YOU say you want success but once you get some, you don’t gun it to get more. SUCCESS says, “Every successful person on earth has a success system. They know that if they do X, they will get Y results. Thus, as soon as they are successful and can prove their system delivers the desired results (or even better), they arrange their time and resources so they can replicate their successful system over and over again, each time reaping the expected (and ever increasing) benefits.”
YOU say you will study successful people to see how they do and how they work because you understand that the achievement of success is inextricably linked to studying the successful and making a point of then doing what they do. SUCCESS says, “Well, are you studying the successful? I certainly haven’t seen you around anyone but your low-down worthless friends. The only time they’ll appear in the media is for robbing a convenience store! Dump ’em.”
YOU say you want success on the Internet. Good for you; it’s where lots of people nowadays get big bucks and worldwide, too. SUCCESS says, “You’re all talk and no action You don’t have anyone to help you. You don’t have the necessary tools you need; you don’t have the training. And, as for your traffic, that’s a joke that you don’t know how to fix. Moreover, you have no way to profit 24 hours a day in this demanding 24-hour-a-day environment.
And what of Yvette?…
Let’s just say my appreciation for Yvette and what she taught me did not flag as the hours advanced. And as for her profound insight into the sustained hustling all true success seekers must engage in?… why that has now gone from just Yvette to me… and now from me to you… for my next adventure… and, by grasping this article and its recommendations, for your faster, greater, truly impressive success.