Before I complete that sentence… Wow! It has been way too long since my last entry to the “Creating an African Superhero” blog series. To everyone who’s been following the series so far, I am SO SORRY! If this is your first time reading my blog posts (if not, skip to the next paragraph), they basically chronicle the failures, successes, and lessons I’ve learned while trying to create and promote a mainstream, African superhero universe (via the comic & animation mediums) titled: The YouNeek YouNiverse. But the posts aren’t just for comic creators and/or fans, they’re for anyone who feels like they have a dream/goal worth chasing. If you’d like to read the previous posts, you can view them here.
Okay, enough backstory. Today’s blog post is centered around the statement: You’ll always be like everyone else until you’re willing to do what everyone else won’t. In this thing we call life, most of us want to be successful. Most of us dream of doing great things. It could be: becoming wealthy, making history, being the first to do/create/accomplish something, writing a book, starting a business etc. Point is, there’s something embedded deep inside each of us that we desperately want to share with the world. But sadly, most of us aren’t willing to pay the price to achieve those things. I know because I was (and at times still am) one of those people. For me, I knew that if I wanted to build a globally recognized comic book/animation studio, I would have to quit my full-time job and put everything I had into the business. A decision that so far has turned out to be the right one (Note: This is NOT a post encouraging you to quit your day job, that is a very serious decision that requires years of thought and planning. For more info and how I came up with my 2-year exit plan, check out an earlier blog post). But I struggled with this decision for a while for obvious reasons. Until one day I decided that the fear of wondering “what if” became greater than the fear of failure (to get tips on battling the fear of failure check out my post Don’t be Afraid to Fail). For you, it could be similar or much different depending on your desire. The hard truth is doing or becoming something great requires great sacrifice. I can’t tell you what that sacrifice is for you, but odds are if you’ve gotten to the point that you desperately want more for your life, you already know what that it is. You’re just hesitating like I was.
The point of this article isn’t to discover what that sacrifice is (it’s different for everyone) but to prepare you for and provide solutions to what happens (or is already happening to you) if you decide(ed) to take that bold step. This isn’t necessarily a motivational bruhaha (did I use this word properly?) post that’s supposed to talk about how great and fun the journey is. I’m going to be completely transparent. So, whether or not you decide to move forward and take that risk/make that sacrifice, here are five problems (and how to solve them) that will definitely come up. I may have used this in the comic and animation industry, but this stuff applies to everyone and anyone who wants to do/be something.
Problem #1: You Will Suck
Yup! You heard me right. When you start out in any new venture, it’s more than likely your stuff will be crap. Years ago, while shopping one of my animated pilots around, I had one producer tell me “This is rubbish. No one will ever watch this stuff.” Jack ass, lol! Boy did that hurt. But I think it hurt more because I knew he was “partially” right. My stuff needed more work.
Solution #1: Get Better
That simple. In the book Outliers (I highly recommend this for anyone who craves success), author Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Let me take that a step further. If you spend an hour a week (52 hours a year) working on your craft (music, art, writing, design, acting, programming etc.) it will take you roughly 192 years to become a master in your field! Again, it’s simple… The more hours you put in, the closer you are to becoming a master within your lifetime. Keep grinding!
Problem #2: You will probably go broke at some point
Doing something great takes time. And time is money. One of the main reason why 50% of businesses fail is a lack of cash flow. It’s just hard to keep things going when you first start. Even when you maintain a 9-5 while chasing your dreams, getting your project/business to a level that really matters usually requires a huge (and most times, recurring) investment from your end. And that can get discouraging real quick. And if like me you’re chasing your dreams full time, then you might experience moments where you’re so broke you begin to ration food like Rick’s group on The Walking Dead.
Solution #2: Anticipate and prepare
Expect this problem to happen. And if it doesn’t, lucky you! The number one thing you should definitely do is save, save, save! This is should be a no-brainer. But unfortunately, most of us skip this step when we start out chasing that dream. Number two, run a very tight ship. I’m talking no shopping for two years type tight ship. You have to be willing to make sacrifices. Your friends and family will do things and go places you can’t. And that will hurt. But you have to endure for a period and focus on the goal. Cut out as many of your wants and stick to your needs. Remember, you have to be willing to do what everyone else won’t. And this is definitely one of those things. It will get hard but remember it’s just for a period. The breakthrough eventually comes. Trust me.
Problem #3: You will regret your decision
This is a given. At some point, you will question yourself and your decision. “What I’m I doing here?” “I’m a failure” “I’m not good enough” “They were right” “What was I even thinking?” Funny thing is, I still question and doubt myself to this very day. This is one battle I feel is constant. At least for me.
Solution #3: Remember “why”
The first thing you should do before you embark on any journey (a goal/dream) that matters is to know “why” you are doing what you’re doing. And this why better be good because you will need it CONSTANTLY. If you have no why, the moment you get tested you WILL quit. My advice is not to let your why be financial only. It has to be more than that because money
may will not come for a while. In hard times, the why will keep you going. For instance, your why could be creating African dolls because your daughter didn’t have dolls that looked like her to play with (true story). This quote from Danny Thomas further stresses the point: Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It’s what you do for others. These are powerful motivational factors that will keep you going despite what life throws your way.
Bonus: Always remember that even the people you think are very successful have gone through similar things and question themselves as well. Doubt respects no one. If you think I’m lying, check out: 19 Incredibly Successful People Who Started Out As Failures
Problem #4: You will be envious of others
It’s not easy to admit, but most of us go through this. I know I did. You go online and see someone’s post on Facebook about their recent achievement and then your mind goes into a ridiculous frenzy: “Why isn’t that me?” “It’s not fair” “Where did they even come from?” “I deserve this more” It’s even worse when you’re working tirelessly on something but it’s going nowhere…
Solution #4: Be happy for other people
Don’t be a jerk. Just be happy for people. I had to nip jealousy in the bud early on because it’s completely counter-productive. It puts you in a ridiculous state of mind that doesn’t allow you foster the right attitude to get things done. I’ve personally found being genuinely happy for and supporting people makes me feel better. Plus, it has allowed me to make some amazing friends/connections that my previous behavior wouldn’t have permitted. These friends have been invaluable to my success. Backing my Kickstarter projects, buying my books, sharing my stuff on social media etc. Not to sound silly, but it has actually ended being a smart business move. Not that that was the plan 🙂
Problem #5: You will suffer countless rejections
If you’ve been following my journey, you’ll know that I’ve been very fortunate to appear on sites like CNN, The New York Times, Forbes, The Washington Post etc. (to find out how I did it, check out another of my earlier posts). What most people don’t know is that before I got one interview, I must have sent out hundreds of emails to journalists. And NONE of them responded. After that, I really just wanted to quit and move on. And who could have blamed me? If you send hundreds of emails with details of your project to bloggers and no one responds, it’s safe to say you don’t really have a good product. But again, you have to be willing to do what everyone else won’t.
Solution #5: Persistence
Is key. The funny thing is that except for minor tweaks, the same email that kept getting rejected is the same one I sent to a journalist at CNN who would go on to give me my second big break. I just had to be persistent. When you experience rejection, you have to options: Quit or Revise. For me, I didn’t care how many times it would take, I was going to keep revising my pitch until someone answered me. This is the approach I take into every other aspect of my business. There’s always a way. And if you are willing to persist (suffer) longer than everyone else, you WILL get the prize.
You’ll always be like everyone else until you’re willing to do what everyone else won’t. So, decide today. Will you be part of the majority of people who make the logical decision? Or will you be part of the minority who are bold enough to make the necessary sacrifices to achieve greatness?
Let me know what you think in the comments section. Would really love to hear from you 🙂
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. Creating these heroes has allowed Roye to attain much prestigious recognition such as being #5 on Ventures Africa’s list of 40 African innovators to watch (2016) as well as being part of NewAfrican Magazines’ 100 most influential Africans of 2016. 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, The New York Times, NBC, The Guardian, ABC7, BBC, The Huffington Post, Mashabe and more!