“In this age, which believes that there is a short cut to everything, the greatest lesson to be learned is that the most difficult way is, in the long run, the easiest.”

—Henry Miller

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We live in a culture that worships at the altar of instant gratification and that loves to romanticize the notion of overnight success.

The average American has a shorter attention span than a fucking goldfish, we wait with bated breath to see if that “one weird trick” will “melt off our belly fat,” and we glorify stories of sudden breakthroughs and miraculous discoveries.

Much of this probably comes from simply having too much: entertainment, comfort food, technological and social assistance, even readily available knowledge. History shows that nothing softens a people like abundance. More portentous, however, is that it also shows us that nothing is abandoned more thoroughly by Mother Nature than her weaker creations.

Despite how quickly modern society moves and changes, human nature remains obstinately old-fashioned. Achieving anything worthwhile requires the same thing today as it did a thousand years ago: grit, work ethic, and an almost perverse will to stay the course, come Hell or high water.

Most people don’t get this, though. They wonder why life seems so damn hard and look to others who have “made it,” earnestly praying for “their turn.”

Well, their turn is waiting for them. Just down that thousand-mile road of thankless toil, struggle, and failure. The same road the vast majority of history’s luminaries walked, alone, in the dark, with no compelling reason to believe there even was an end, let alone a payoff.

“The value of a thing sometimes lies not in what one attains with it but in what one pays for it— what it costs us.”

—Friedrich Nietzsche

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These concepts are explored in a  fantastic two-part video essay series from British filmmaker Adam Westbrook, which pierce mythology of genius and the myth of overnight success.

In the first part, Westbrook tells the story of one of history’s most celebrated “losers”: Leonardo da Vinci…

And in the second installment, inspired in part by Robert Greene’s fantastic book Mastery, Westbrook elaborates on the concept of the “difficult years” and why nothing ensures lasting success like the “mundane” ability to keep showing up, day in day out…


What are your thoughts on the “costs” of success? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!