Let's Get Off Our Buts

Part Five:
Do the Work

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.


You can't build a reputation on what you're GOING to do.


Pursuing your Dream requires work--mental, emotional, and physical. Work is what we don't want to do, but we do anyway to get something else. To reach your Dream, you'll you'll have to do a lot of things you don't want to do.

Some people live in a fairy-tale fantasy about the attainment of their Dream. They think that every step on the way to their Dream should be effortless--a private jet picks them up on their front lawn and transports them to Paradise. Not only that, they are carried to the private jet, and fed peeled grapes along the way.

Dismiss any simliar fantasies you entertain. While you're at it, dismiss the fantasy that the work ever stops. Some people like to include a completely work-free life as part of their Dream. They tend to agree with Charlie McCarthy, who said, "Hard work never killed anybody, but why take the chance?" Alas, the work continues even after we have our Dream. If we're alive, there's still work to do.

The work may change form, but it remains as irksome as work always is. Actors work to find an agent. Once an agent is found, they work to get a part. Once they get enough parts to be a star, they work to find the right script. The work never ends.

"It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness," Seneca said. Part of the roughness is doing all the mundane things you know you'll hire somebody else to do once you achieve your Dream. "Our main business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance," wrote Thomas Carlyle, "but to do what lies clearly at hand." Is stuffing envelopes with your resume "at hand"? Stuff.

The hand is the cutting edge of the mind.


There are some things we can never hire someone else to do. If our Dream requires a personal physical ability or skill, we have to work to develop and maintain that. "Nothing I do can't be done by a ten-year-old--with fifteen years of practice," said magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. You can't hire someone to practice for you.

Sometimes we have an opportunity, but it requires extra work. Do it. "If an unusual necessity forces us onward, a surprising thing occurs," observed William James:

The fatigue gets worse up to a certain point, when, gradually or suddenly, it passes away and we are fresher than before!

We have evidently tapped a new level of energy. There may be layer after layer of this experience, a third and fourth "wind." We find amounts of ease and power that we never dreamed ourselves to own, sources of strength habitually not taxed, because habitually we never push through the obstruction of fatigue.

The French proverb sums it up: "One may go a long way after one is tired."

Some people say they would like "more luck." What they usually need is more work. "The harder you work," the saying goes, "the luckier you get." Luck itself is fairly evenly distributed. "Breaks balance out," said Darrell Royal. "The sun don't shine on the same ol' dog's ass every day."

A lot of people miss valuable opportunities--or flatly refuse to partake of them--due to their unwillingness to work. "Problems are only opportunities in work clothes," observed Henry J. Kaiser (sounding a lot like Edison).

Do the necessary work. A lot of people decide how much is necessary before they really know how much it will be. They say, "I've done enough work," and give up. They were wrong. It wasn't enough.

When we have what we want, it was enough. Until then, it wasn't. Do the work until it's enough--until you have your Dream.

It's a lot of work pursuing your Dream. Be prepared for it.

In Training for Success

I prefer Hostess fruit pies to pop-up toaster tarts because they don't require as much cooking.


Consider the pursuit of your dream a major athletic event. Train for it. What we exercise gets stronger. That's true mentally, emotionally, and physically.

Physically: Keep fit. Exercise. Eat a good diet. Precisely what constitutes a good diet, however, is so controversial, that we might open a special chamber of The Gap just to accommodate the many beliefs about nutrition. I can, nonetheless, offer with confidence this diet by Joel Weldon, found on the bulletin board of Dr. William Hellman:

1/2 Grapefruit
1 piece Whole Wheat Toast
8 Oz. Skim Milk

4 Oz. Lean Breast of Chicken
1 Cup Steamed Zucchini
1 Oreo Cookie
1 Cup Herb Tea

Rest of Package of Oreo Cookies
1 Quart Rocky Road Ice Cream
1 Jar Hot Fudge

2 Loaves Banana Bread
1 Large Pepperoni Pizza
1 Large Pitcher of Beer
5 Milky Way Bars
1 Entire Frozen Cheesecake--eaten directly from the freezer

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-five now, and we don't know where the hell she is.


"I went on a diet," said Joe E. Lewis, "swore off drinking and heavy eating, and in fourteen days I lost two weeks."

"Only Irish coffee provides in a single glass all four essential food groups," Alex Levine tells us: "alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and fat."

Exercising the Emotions: Keep them flexible by practicing unexpected emotional reactions to life's challenges. For example, be friendly even if you don't get your way, smile and wave at the person who cuts you off in traffic, enjoy being stood up.

Exercising the Mind: Keep it open. Eagerly consider new ideas, thoughts, suggestions, information, insights, perceptions, and intuitions.

Stretching the Comfort Zone: Keep expanding it. Each day, do at least one thing you don't want to do that has absolutely no practical benefit whatsoever. This keeps the comfort zone growing. For example, walking up and talking to people whom you don't want to meet will expand the comfort zone. Eventually, walking up and meeting strangers will be easy--comfortable. Then, when you see someone you want to meet, saying "Hello" will be easy.

"Do something every day that you don't want to do." Mark Twain advised. "This is the golden rule for acquiring the habit of doing your duty without pain."

Your duty is fulfilling your Dream.

If It's Written in Stone, Bring Your Hammer and Chisel

I am in earnest; I will not equivocate; I will not excuse; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard.


Nothing is impossible. "The one unchangeable certainty," said John F. Kennedy, "is that nothing is unchangeable or certain." The more improbable something is, however, the more work it takes to achieve.

If there's something "impossible" about your Dream, do it anyway. "The greatest pleasure in life," says Walter Bagehot, "is doing what people say you cannot do." Benjamin Jowett adds, "Never retreat. Never explain. Get it done and let them howl."

Waiting around does not do it. You do it. "Things may come to those who wait," wrote ABRAHAM LINCOLN, "but only the things left by those who hustle." Thomas Edison (sounding a lot like Lincoln) said, "Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits."

You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true, and also fierce, you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her.


If you want to win anything a race, your self, your lifE you have to go a little berserk.


Be daring. "Even God lends a hand to honest boldness," Menander wrote. "If you have an important point to make, don't try to be subtle or clever," Winston Churchill said. "Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then a third time--a tremendous whack!"

Not only does boldness get us closer to what we want; it also has an important secondary benefit. "To know oneself," Camus wrote, "one should assert oneself."

How do we help guarantee success? Dorothea Brande suggested, "Act as if it were impossible to fail."

Purchase the book from Amazon

of ContentsHOME

Copyright © 1991-1996 Prelude Press & Peter McWilliams site credits