And we are back! Took me a little long, but I finally got a chance to continue the “Creating an African Superhero” blog series. If you haven’t already please check out the previous two blogs. Part One: Don’t be afraid to fail and Part Two: Persistence Pays. While they aren’t prerequisites to follow this post, both are really great reads so check them out if you can. As usual, this series chronicles the ups, downs, successes, failures and in general, lessons I’ve learned (and am still learning), on my journey to creating a mainstream, African superhero (comic & animation) titled E.X.O. Today’s post focuses on hard work. And not just in the cliche sense like what we hear everyday. Instead I want to focus on ask the question: when chasing a dream or trying to achieve a lofty goal, is it enough to simply work hard?
This post was actually inspired by an episode of the MFCEO podcast I recently listened to. Side note, this is actually a great podcast for anyone who’s an entrepreneur, so check it out if you can. On this particular episode, Andy Frisella (host of the podcast) said, and I’m paraphrasing, a lot of us throw out the term hard work as a prerequisite to success (which I 100% agree with), but what do we actually mean by the term hard work? After a couple of personal anecdotes, Andy mentioned something very profound (again paraphrasing): Hard work without a plan is a waste of time and effort. Immediately a light bulb went off in my brain because I could totally relate to being in such a position. It doesn’t matter what your current situation is, whether you are an entrepreneur, author, doctor, accountant, superhero or whatever, if you simply work hard without any sort of plan or a set of goals you’re simply a hamster on a wheel, destined to run indefinitely.
Picture this. Let’s say I have a job and my responsibility is to carry a box every single day from street A to street B (it’s a ridiculous example I know, but stay with me for a second) . For simplicity sake, lets say it takes me 8 hours to execute the job and I pick up my check on my trip back. In essence my day will go like this. Wake up, get ready, pick up box from street A, carry box, drop box at street B and then pick up check on the return home. Without a plan, I could essentially do this for years. No matter how hard I work , if I don’t have a plan, I will always carry that box from street A to street B. Now consider this, if I decided to come up with a plan to accompany my hard work, I could maybe find a faster route and possibly use the extra time to get another job carrying an extra box to street B. This essentially gives me extra cash, of which I can use to hire 4 people to carry 4 more boxes. I could then mentor those 4 people, teaching them not to make the same mistakes I made and make them more efficient. Because of that, I attract more people, more people means more business, more business means more success and so on. It’s a very optimistic example but you get the point.
When I first had the idea to create E.X.O., I focused so much just “working hard” that I completely ignored having a plan. I just figured if I can get an animated test pilot out there the rest will just come together. After all, I had a great and unique concept. So I spent a year working “extremely hard” to get the animated pilot. Once it was done, I spent an additional two years carrying the pilot around, working my butt off to convince distributors and investors to give me money for a feature length movie/TV series. Imagine my disappointment when nothing happened. It was then I realized hard work alone wasn’t enough. I needed a solid plan, so I went back to the drawing board. Decided I needed a plan to build a fan base from the ground up. So i started doing research, on everything. Research on running a business, marketing, social media, branding, writing, feasibility studies, EVERYTHING. I studied the comic book industry, how to self-publish, crowdfunding (the projects that succeeded and ones that failed), found the most successful indie comics and studied what worked for them and so on. Exactly one year ago I drew out a one year plan develop and release my story as a graphic novel (while putting my animation dreams on hold) to prove there was a market for it first. Then use the success of the book as leverage to pursue the animated movie goal once again. One year later I’ve managed to create a 136 page graphic novel, raise $10,000 on Kickstarter, get featured on CNN, Forbes & BBC, sell out on Amazon and more.
I say all this not to boast, but to make you believe that if a regular dude like me can achieve all this, then there’s nothing stopping you from achieving your own lofty goals as well. So wherever you are right now, whatever job, whatever task, whatever role, don’t just focus on hard work alone, make sure you have a plan. If you hate your job, find out what you need to do to get a better one. If your products aren’t selling, by some books, do some research on how to come up with a solid marketing plan. If customers aren’t coming through door of your small business attend a conference, convention, seminar, webinar or whatever you can to put you in the right frame of mind to regroup and come up with a better plan. All this isn’t coming from someone who already has this on lock, I still try to to apply these concepts everyday as well and just recently got better sticking to it.
I’ll close by saying this, while I believe hard work alone isn’t enough, It is no doubt one of the most important, if not the most important key to success. Absolutely nothing good comes without hard work. There’s just no way around it. If you’re looking for shortcuts to success, or if you think you can “make it” without putting in the work, you’ve already lost. Success is a very, very long marathon, very few make it to the end because of what it takes to cross the finish line. So work hard, work smart and always make sure you have a plan!
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Roye Okupe is a veteran creative specialist who holds both a Bachelor’s and Master’s in computer science from The George Washington University. His passion for animation led him to found YouNeek Studios in 2012, an avenue that would allow him pursue his dream of creating a diverse library of superheroes. Roye released chapter 1 of his debut, superhero graphic novel titled: E.X.O. The Legend of Wale Williams, a superhero story set in a futuristic Nigeria. E.X.O. was received with critical acclaim and has since been featured on CNN, Forbes, BBC, The Huffington Post, Mashabe and more!