The Myth of the “Road to Success”

I want to debunk a common myth.

I decided to write to you about this myth the other day when I got an email from Circle of Success member Cecil … an email much like others I’ve gotten from AWAI members.

“I’m really concerned, Will. I hope you can help me. I was really excited when I started out in The Accelerated Program. I still am. I want this new career to work, but I’ve run into a bunch of problems that have stopped me in my tracks. I don’t want to give up. I love what I’m learning. But I’m stuck. Please help!”

The power … and problem … of metaphors

When Cecil says he’s stopped in his tracks, that he’s stuck, he’s using a common metaphor about success. This metaphor envisions the journey to success as being along a road. We even talk about the “road to success.”

This metaphor is all wrong.

We use metaphors in our speech and writing because they help us understand complex situations in simpler terms. We use them because they work. That’s the power of metaphors.

When talking about success, it’s as if we start out in San Francisco on a drive to New York. Straight line. Few changes of direction.

Seems harmless enough.

But there’s a danger here. Metaphors not only give us a simpler view of reality; they also shape reality. Talking about success like a journey along a road leads people to feeling “stuck” like Cecil did.

A blown out tire. A burned out fuel pump. Worn piston rings. These problems stop you in your tracks. They halt forward progress.

Yes, you can get them repaired and start moving forward again, but …

All too often that feeling of being stuck in our quest for success keeps us from starting up again.

A new metaphor for your journey to success …

I wrote Cecil back and told him I no longer think of success this way. I use a different metaphor for this journey.

If you’re traveling from San Francisco to New York by plane, that airplane doesn’t stay on course. Cross winds, updrafts, down drafts, and other unforeseen events push the plane off course.

But the plane keeps moving forward and makes it where it’s going. Why?

The pilot and navigator constantly make mid-course corrections.

So, as simplistic as it sounds, I told Cecil that he is not stuck. He needs to make—and continue to make—mid-course corrections. And, so do you as you travel toward your inevitable, undeniable goal of copywriting success.

Putting meaning into metaphor …

The airplane metaphor works. But only if you take these two steps to keep yourself making those mid-course corrections.

First, find yourself a good “navigator”

You need someone who’ll guide you in your mid-course corrections. AWAI’s forums are the best place to find that navigator. Many of your peers have gone through the same problems you might be having. Or, that crop up later along the way.

Or, you could choose a particularly close friend who wants you to succeed as much as you do.

Regardless of whom you choose for your navigator, find someone who can give you support and guidance all along the way to help you make the mid-course corrections.

Second, keep moving forward … no matter how small the movement

I’ve heard from AWAI members who have faced serious illnesses (their own and family members’), job loss, increased work at their jobs, hurricanes, and any number of daunting events.

One member stands out, though. She faced a number of personal disasters I won’t go into here. She wrote me and apologized for being behind on her Circle of Success program work.

But, she also told me that, while these problems had slowed her down, she wasn’t giving up. She’d put aside 15 minutes a day to study The Accelerated Program and do her COS work.

She wanted to do more. She’d planned to do more. But she was doing as much as she could.

She kept moving forward, slower than she’d hoped at first. But she didn’t stop. She kept her momentum going.

So, this is what I told Cecil. And, this is what I tell you. Don’t allow yourself to be stuck. If “life gets in the way” (boy, how many times have I heard that?), take a mid-course correction around it. Do something—anything—that moves you forward.

Read a book that will help you be a better copywriter. Study an AWAI program, even for 15 minutes a day … or a week, if that’s all you can spare. Write as much as you can—letters, emails, notes to your coworkers—using the skills you’re developing here.

But keep moving forward!

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Published: March 30, 2015

5 Responses to “The Myth of the “Road to Success””

  1. This article came at the perfect time. I have been working on the Accelerated Copywriter's program since February. I started with a lot of dedication and excitement about my future. Then things started happening in my life, that took me off course and I am finding it very difficult to make that mid course correction.After reading Will's article, I find that I can do small things everyday...even if it's reading for 15 mins a day. I know I will get my enthusiasm back. Thank you for this article!

    Sue JMarch 30, 2015 at 12:40 pm

  2. I was in this exact place for a few months. Last week I decided to do just as you've suggested here. I'm taking 1 hour each day to work on my business. I also have taken a walk and come back to my plan or read a book to help kickstart my action. Thanks for this Will, it's been helpful to know there is a way to keep on course.

    Shawn MausMarch 30, 2015 at 3:49 pm

  3. Hello Will, I am a new member. I do not know you in person but I read many of your articles .I admire your experience and you share with others.
    I applied some jobs as copywriter, but I did not get it because they all looked for experienced ones.
    At this moment, I still work 10 hours a day ,6 days a week.I follow the master's advice to write every day and move forward.
    Thank you . God Bless.
    Jane-Marie T Uong Barefoot Writer Club, ITWPA, PWA

    jennieSeptember 21, 2015 at 10:29 am

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