United: Why We As Americans Are Better Than People Say

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I think Hillary Clinton will make an amazing president.
As a ‘responsibility’ person I take seriously the choices I make for my life — who to spend time with, how I treat others, what I eat, and where I direct my energy in my brief time upon this earth.
I think, and re-think, possibilities. Every choice has weight, and merit. I try to balance enjoyment with hard work, chocolate cake with salad.
Hillary Clinton may be salad to you.
For me, I’m excited for the first woman president, but I’m most excited because all my reading and studying of the issues (and scandals) has instilled in me a belief that she will be A GREAT PRESIDENT.
Not a good one; a great one.
There been so much noise, and vitriol, and hate that’s it’s hard to come back to two human being interviewing for a job, but that’s what this is. And you don’t have to love all of Clinton’s choices (like every other human being on the planet, she also has sometimes made mistakes), and you certainly don’t have to want to have a beer with her. Just let her do her job. A job every living president, including Republicans, has refused to endorse Donald Trump for — because he’s unqualified. You can admire your nephew’s spark and personality, but if he fails at the lemonade stand, you can’t let him run the Buick dealership.
A word about Trump: I don’t hate him. While I personally never would want someone so rude and hurtful in his words to women and minorities representing us and speaking for us, I understand a part of his appeal. I grew up reading Doonesbury, and ‘The Donald’ was a larger than life, funny character. Later I watched the first season of The Apprentice. Trump was king, issuing interesting challenges and dispensing bite size business wisdom. The credit for that show might go mainly to the producers, but Trump was in his element — engaging, straight-talking, funny.
The White House is in no way his element. The White House isn’t fun. There is no throne. And problems in the Situation Room can’t be solved with bite sized mon bots.
And so it is his experience and judgement, not the many cruel things he’s said and done, that disqualify him in my mind. He thinks we might should default on the national debt, leave NATO, and go back on our word — our signed treaties — to protect our Asian allies. His ideas seem stark black and white in a grey world — but understanding those shades of grey is imperative to actually addressing and fixing our problems. When your kid suggests you throw that mortgage payment you don’t like into the trash, they think they have a great solution to your problem, to as an adult you know it’s more complicated than that.
Hillary Clinton is the adult. She’s the person you want as your doctor, your accountant. She doesn’t have to be your first pick, but between the two people interviewing who have a chance of winning — in my mind, in my judgement, she’s the only choice. I also think that she will be one of the most hardworking, problem-solving, and reaching-across-the-aisle presidents we’d seen. I actually think she and Paul Ryan would be a great team.
My last word though, is actually why I wrote this. It’s been a long, LONG, ugly campaign. The mud is now so deep that we can’t see the two human beings in this race anymore. So much mud has been thrown, in fact, that us bystanders have gotten it on us too. Well, it’s time — on this penultimate day before the election — to wash it off and show everyone, including those who don’t share our beliefs, how beautiful we are.
We’re Americans. I live in the deep south, in a conservative, rural area, and I live next to some of the kindest, most caring, most community-minded people I’ve ever met. I also work in a college town, a place with liberal people who work hard to improve each others lives and look after one another.
We’re a country full of good people, and we’re passionate about what we believe in. But I think we have a power greater than passion, a power those who lead us and write about us and ‘decide’ who we are don’t see — our power is a good-natured, bullshit-detecting, humanity.
Almost all of us crossed over oceans — in person or in our blood — to get here. It was often cramped, with bad food and little reason for cheer. But we soon-to-be Americans, we found a little light and huddled around it and sung and told stories and laughed together. We were better, and more beautifully-souled, than any hardship.
We’ve survived great wars because everyone pitched in and went to work. We’ve become more just, even though the path to justice always means having to examine ourselves and allow ourselves to change in sometimes painful ways. We Americans discard our outdated beliefs to make new friends — when was the last time you judged someone for being Irish or Scottish?
We Americans carry every bit of the best part of the founding father’s vision — and we do it with a what-can-you-do? smile and a shrug.
We come together in times of tragedy. We laugh in shared joy. We soar when joy finally comes to Mudville and the Cubs bring it home. We are better, more real, than any model. We are more forgiving and fill of grace than makes for good news-story prophesying. We get along better, work harder, laugh more, and love each other in ways that those who seek to understand us can never understand.
It’s been busy, loud, divisive, sometimes fun, and often disheartening. But it’s almost over. And tomorrow half the country, including maybe myself, will see our team lose the big game.
So be extra kind this week. Be extra American. Help your Trump-loving neighbor mow her lawn and listen to her concerns about the future. Buy your Clinton-loving neighbor a beer and listen to his concerns about the future. We have much to learn from each other. For every winner you hug, hug a loser.
The pundits, the media, and even the candidates themselves pit this as a larger-than-life struggle between two unyielding, opposing forces. And while it’s important to fight for what you believe in, it’s as important to live your beliefs, your values.
We’re better than they say we are. We fight and love and work together every day. We help each other cross streets, hail taxis, get directions. We help each other grieve, and celebrate, and achieve.
So whoever you vote for, know that America, and Americans, will be just fine. We’ve seen worse, and we’ve done better. This election hasn’t been our finest hour, but that’s because our finest hours still lie before us. America is the greatest country on Earth because we’re part of the greatest experiment on Earth and one that each of us is an integral part of of — and that is still in its infancy. We’re are America and we’re awesome — each and every one of us is awesome.
So vote. Then — win or lose — find a light. Gather with the victors and the defeated in love and shared humanity. Sing a song, share a drink, help someone you don’t know.
We choose the way forward, and as Americans that way is always up. As Americans we also know that the road upward is often hard, and full of hurt and disappointment. We are ever experiencing growing pains, but that is because we are still growing.
I’ve got you. We’ve got this. We didn’t became great by lacking bravery. We became great by rising to every challenge.
This election? It will define us for now. Our choices are important. We are responsible for picking a qualified, knowledgeable leader. But most of all we are responsible for each other. I am my brother’s keeper. I am my sister’s keeper. I know this will be a tough week, but together we shall be what we have always been — in spite of injustice, inequality, division, and hate. We shall be one.
United.
And let no one tear us asunder.
Now, who wants to go for a beer?
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Awesome Day #6 — Finding 30 y/o Magic Shields

Never say the 80s weren’t crey-crey.

Yesterday was day #6 of my 8 day ‘stay-cation’.  Tomorrow I’ll tell you about my sear-the-flesh-from-your-bones Meeting With the Mentor (all of you Hero’s Journey fans know what I’m talking about).

But day #6 was about cleaning out our ‘junk’ room which had originally been our childhood toy room.  And sure enough I found a few toy accessories left over, including the red and white shield shown above.  The other parts were long gone, but the shield was enough (it’s made of metal of all things) to find the name online and bring back forgotten memories.

But mainly I want to share with you how great it feels to clear away 10 year old junk (and older) and see yourself starting fresh and clean.  I encourage you to clean out something (even if it’s only a drawer) and create some space in your life for something new.

Sorry this is a little short (it was an exhausting day) but tomorrow I’ll discuss my Hero’s Journey as well as my Day #8 wrap-up / lessons learned.

P.S. How crazy was that outfit?  And they were called Golden Girl & the Guardians of the Gemstones (for anyone having their own flashbacks).

My Book is Alive!!! (well, live on Amazon)

Cover by Sarah Cerulean madnessofart@gmail.com

Cover by Sarah Cerulean

I’m happy!  I was feeling a little behind on my writing goals, so I today I buckled down, finished formatting my book and uploaded to Amazon!  That was a shot in the arm!

I still have a good deal of work to get the paperback out the door, but for now it feels like I’ve taken a BIG step toward living the life of my dreams.

I’m pretty tired, so let’s just you and I go gaze adoringly at the Amazon page.  Ahh.

The Post

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Well, here it is — The Post.  Now, for my part I promise you it is the only one of its kind.  I’m not going to keep harping on this.  But I’m also going to speak very clearly and forcefully right now.

This post is about stealing.  Specifically, illegal steaming and downloading.

For the record, it’s not because I’ve had anything stolen from me or because I am religious.  I haven’t and I’m not.  This is about right and wrong.

Now, I’m sympathetic to how we got here.  Technology has come on so fast (when I was a kid in the 80s there was no internet — gasp!).  And in the ‘old days’ some sharing was allowed, or even encouraged.  You lent out your book or record to a friend so they could experience the same joy you did.  And then there were used book or record stores where you could sell or trade goods and even though the original creators didn’t get money, you were only selling your single copy and others had to be okay with buying used goods.

I also understand that the average household income has been going down since the 70s and corporate profits have been going up.

And lastly, I understand that there’s a certain kind entrepreneurial spirit that is sometimes at play.  I was recently talking to some self-publishing friends and they mentioned you could use Paypal when people bought your books, but to the sure to mark it as a ‘gift of money’ instead of a ‘payment for goods sold’ because Paypal will charge you a fee for the latter.  Now these are good people who didn’t think about it as lying or stealing, but Paypal is a business, and not paying them what they ask when you’re using their service to further your business is stealing.  And to their credit, when we talked about it, my friends agreed.  But as someone who has made signs from trash and done my own editing, I fully understand the ‘smart way’ thinking that led them to that place.

Now the fun part, where I tell you you rock and to stop making your grandmother cry

Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?

Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

Bart: No.

Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?

Bart: Uh uh.

Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?

Bart: I guess that’s okay.

Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?

Bart: Hell, no.

— The Simpsons, ‘Bart the Murderer’ written by John Swartzwelder

Ah, the slippery slope of rationalization.  Now, I know you are a good person.  You have people you love, things that mean something to you.  You have a heart.  And as a good person you are going to have to give up stealing.  There is no justification.  People I’ve talked to who illegally download are almost always trying to justify it.  If you’re a thief, a criminal, and don’t mind that — at least you’re honest.  This post is for everyone who still believes stealing online is different than stuffing a CD down your pants and sneaking past the security guard at the local mall.

Below are the excuses / rationalzations I’ve heard:

The artists don’t get the money anyway.  Why should I give my money to a big corporation?

First of all, because it’s their property.  The same as a physical CD, they spent the time and money, took the risk, and produced a product — you take that product without paying, then you’re a thief.  Secondly, because the artists do get some of it.  They wouldn’t be doing this otherwise.  And they are getting enough to follow their dreams, and make more music, TV shows, and games you love.  And if their product doesn’t make money, guess what?  Your favorite artist would have to go and work at McDonalds.

The artists are millionaires.  And I don’t like some of them.  They don’t need my eight bucks.

 First of all, that’s still their work and effort you’re enjoying and they do deserve compensation.  And a lot of artists go through years and years of struggle to even get out there on the national stage; so just because you don’t think they deserve it doesn’t mean you get be cheap.  You would seem a millionaire to many in third world countries — can they come take your TV and wallet because you don’t deserve it?  You worked for your money and you should get to use it as you see fit — and so should every band, singer, game creator, writer, and TV producer.

Singers can do live shows for money.

Uh . . .  This one blows my mind every time.  Yes, and you can come listen to them.  But what you are suggesting is the end of every entertainment medium you love.  If illegal downloading was wide enough spread (if I couldn’t support the people you steal from) then there would be no cable TV (Do you know how much those HBO shows cost?), no professional quality CDs, no New York Times Bestsellers.  If event venues and artists who don’t mind working two jobs and releasing free content to you were the whole of entertainment, it would be a very sad shell of itself.  Your illegal downloading is killing the shows and singers you love most.

I just wanted to try it.  And after ten album listens (40 gameplay hours, etc) I didn’t like it that much.

Oh no, you don’t.  You got to experience a thing — that’s what you’re paying for.  Don’t think you’d like that album?  Then wait till it’s on Spotify, or listen to the singles on Youtube.  Rent that game instead of buying it, or only buy six-month-old games that have tons of reviews, walkthoughs, and are now half price.

I’m not stealing a physical item — it costs them nothing.

All the effort that went into creating something is not nothing.  For a CD — the case, burned CD, and paper cost about 50 cents.  That’s all.  The thousands and sometimes millions, go into the music itself — and that’s what you are stealing.  The same way when you gave a physical copy of a book to your buddy, that was maybe one sale they would miss out on as you shared your copy — but if you ‘share’ online you are taking away thousands, millions of sales.  If the artist or company made it, then they deserve payment — whether or not it’s in a 20 cent plastic jewel case.  If you wouldn’t steal from a store, you shouldn’t steal online.  It’s like that old joke —

He: Would you sleep with any man for a million dollars?
She: Well…I guess so.
He: How about sleeping with me for ten dollars?
She: (angrily) What do you think I am?
He: Oh, I know what you are.  Now we are only haggling over the price.

And lastly —

I don’t have any money.

I feel for you.  But in this day and age most people reading this have internet access.  And even if you don’t, there are a ton of events, libraries, and other public freebies.  And online you have Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Youtube, and TONS of songs, shows, and games put up for free by their creators.  Maybe you are buying too much; try buying half as many things and wait for the ones you want most, or wait for price drops and sales.  Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s any better than the best of last year.

THERE IS A BRIGHT SHINY FUTURE OF PLENTY AHEAD OF YOU

. . . let go of the past.

You are a wonderful person.  You have big dreams and you want to live in a world of abundance.  That means supporting others’ dreams and works and helping make the world a more just, happier place.  You can do it.  Just stop stealing today (your grandmother would be proud) and start supporting the dreamers, the doers, and the creative freaks.  Because behind everything you steal, there’s a person like me, a nice, hardworking creator who only wants to make a living while entertaining the pants off you.

Higher Levels of Kinship and Inspiration

Today we have a special treat for you; a guest post by rising lit star Rob White!  I love Rob’s ‘The Pull’ series and he is a passionate contributor to the Athens Writers Association.  Enjoy!

When I started writing back in 1994 I did so in my parents’ basement. I was a solitary kid despite having two siblings. I didn’t have very many friends so much of my time was spent alone and my friends became the imaginary characters pulled from my subconscious and the pool of untapped and unfulfilled desire. I wished I had a big sister, so I wrote about having one. I wished I had a dog, so I wrote about that too. I wished I had a giant metal monster stalking me through downtown Atlanta…okay, maybe that wasn’t something I wanted, but I wrote about it anyway.

What followed those initial days of solitude and a creative bubble that was mine alone were many years of writing behind closed doors, in quiet libraries and behind the backs of those I love; rarely even talking about my writing, much less sharing it. It wasn’t until I was asked into a writing group by this very blogger I’m guesting for, Miss Katherine Cerulean, that I discovered what I had been missing all of those years.

As writers, perhaps as creative types in general, most of us are naturally introverts. We crave companionship like any other human being but we also crave alone time and often feel most like “us” when there’s no one around. That’s all well and good, and alone time is important for everyone, but we can’t let it get in the way of our growth either. We’re human. Humans are social creatures. We need interaction with others to meet our full potential.

So what does that mean for little old you? Well I’ll tell you what it has meant for little old me. I entered that first Writers Association meeting a little bit anxious and even a little bit protective of my work. I had avoided critique groups for years because I didn’t want to be discouraged by what others thought of me. This time was a little different because I had just independently published a novel and had a bit of practical experience under my belt, but I was still just as prepared as ever to have my work and, by extension, myself picked apart.

As everyone drifted in and took up positions around the table, that anxious side of me kept trying to see hungry faces looking for easy prey to make them feel superior. Instead what I saw were a panoply of eager faces; eager not to pick me apart, but to share. In the eyes of the shy young man and the uncertain middle-age woman alike I saw the same kind of caution and the same kind of anxiety I carried. None were sure what to expect and all were debating whether sharing their work in public would make them feel better or worse.

What happened as Katherine made introductions and expressed the purpose of the group was like magic. People started opening up. I started opening up. I felt more comfortable speaking about myself and – more importantly – my work as others spoke about theirs. Soon I was not only comfortable, but confident. These weren’t enemies to my precious introverted creative life; these were allies. These were comrades in arms.

Advice, reassurance and wisdom bounced between us as freely as ideas and literary passions flowed from our voices and laughter filled the room as we all realized our common bonds. We all had experience to share. Each of us carried a piece of a puzzle that could inform the others. My experience helped someone else whose experience helped me in kind. Around that coffee shop table, we all met in the middle.

Seeing how this group has helped all kinds of writers, from those merely forming ideas for novels in their head to those who have been pushing out work for twenty years or more; all of us gained strength from our unity of purpose. I now believe there’s not a single creative soul of any kind that couldn’t benefit from sitting around a table from others and either sharing or listening; even the introverts; especially the introverts.

So my advice to writers young and old, experienced authors and fresh upstarts is to get out there and find a group of wordsmiths just like you. If such a group does not exist, create one! In the age of the internet, it’s easier than ever to bring people together. Use the talents you have to call out to the seekers out there and form connections that can push each and every one of us to higher levels of kinship and inspiration.

Rob White is a novelist, comic book author and professional dreamer. Rob makes his home in Athens, Georgia where he revels in the chaos and magic of living in a town full of artists and collaborates with other mad and beautiful souls as frequently as possible.

Visit Rob’s website Follow The Pull

Follow Rob on Twitter

Buy his novel on Amazon

 

Warning! You are Living in the Pop Culture Moment of Your Dreams

I just realized this year that we are living in the kind of time and place we are going to annoy those younger than us about for the rest of our lives.

Now, I know summer movies haven’t been that great.  I almost didn’t write this because of that.  But, I believe the ups are so amazing that we can forgive a few downs.

Personal history — since I was born in 1979, I only have a few decades to compare now to, but I think the last few years have been extraordinary.  The 1980s were charming and the 1990s were the first decade where I really paid attention to pop culture, but the now is so far beyond what I’ve seen before.

When the grand kids eyes glaze over, and they can’t listen to ‘the good old days’ of pop culture anymore — tell them to blame cable TV.  I wouldn’t even be writing this post without its influence.

I remember hearing a little about this show called ‘The Sorpranos’, and then it started winning big awards right out from under the nose of great network TV shows.  Then more and more wonderful series followed.  Now, it seems like I’ve seen so much great TV in the last ten years that just those shows (and the ones I haven’t seen) could last me a longtime, quality-wise.

Just recently I finished the second disc of Girls, season 1, from Netflix.  It’s extraordinary, and yet also ’just what we expect’ from HBO or other premium cable networks.  One network, AMC, has on at the time ‘Breaking Bad’, ‘Mad Men’, and the ‘Walking Dead’?  That’s insane.

But the rosy glow you’ll cast this era in has to do with more than TV.  You’ll talk about how radio, for a brief shining moment, was really fun to listen to, and full of art.  You’ll talk about Kanye West and fun. and Macklemore and Mumford & Sons all in the same sentence.

Then some other old-timer will mention video games and you’ll be talking about Rock Star and Valve and PopCap and Bioware and Blizzard for the next thirty minutes.

And all the great movies and books (Harry Potter!  The Road!) and comics and more.

And finally to shut you up, your grand kids will say, ‘Gee, that was interesting!  So why, in one sentence, do you think it was such an amazing time even though bio-cranial entertainment hadn’t even been invented yet?’

And you’ll say, ‘I think it was because this was the beginning of the information age and all these separate groups came together and cross-pollinated and people started to expect more from their entertainment and creators stopped being afraid to give people deep stories full of dark characters and — maybe we were just really lucky.’

And then the kid will asked how Duck Dynasty fit into all this and you’ll tell him to shut up.

Inspirational Women: 7 Influential Women Who Failed Before They Succeeded

This is great — especially about Vera Wang. Makes me want to take over the world!

LadyRomp

The Huffington Post  |  By Julie Zeilinger

“Looking back at my own life, there are the things that can trip us up and dampen that spirit,” Arianna Huffington told graduating high school seniors last year. “The first thing is failure — or even the fear of failure.”

But an important part of achieving what we set out to do — and something that seems to be particularly difficult for women — is overcoming bumps in the road we may experience along the way. We forget that failure is often a necessary part of eventual success. In order to remind ourselves of this, we’ve gathered the stories of seven fearless women who experienced failure before ultimately becoming legends in their respective fields.

lucille ball

1. Lucille Ball

Lucile Ball is now remembered as the first woman to run a major television studio (she gained full control of Desilu Productions in 1962) and…

View original post 654 more words

Take Action

I am gearing up for the rest of the year, and I’ve basically decided that there’s no magic bullet, secret answer, or magic guru who can get me where I want to go.

There’s only me.

I also know the next steps I need to take — want to get fit?  Exercise more and eat less bad things.  Become a pro writer?  Act like a pro writer and hit goals and deadlines.  I know I can do these things and I know they’ll head me in the right direction.  So what am I waiting for?  Nothing!

Imagine someone, some nice stranger about your age and doing what you’re doing and dreaming what you’re dreaming of — now what clear-eyed advice would you give them when they asked for your help to reach the next level (advice that may be harder to give when it’s you and your life)?

My Advice to Katherine Cerulean About How to Live Her Dreams:

  1. Only one sugary treat a week
  2. Exercise every day
  3. Do yoga every day
  4. If you want to be a pro writer then ACT like a pro writer.  Set deadlines, hit goals, and finish more things faster
  5. Finish ‘Fall Street’ novel (final draft) by the end of the year
  6. Get ‘A Caged Heart Still Beats’, a novel, into the hands of readers — query, self publish, etc
  7. Keep blogging because you love it, but let other social media you’re not thrilled with fall away
  8. Start seeing yourself as brilliant, on track, and ready to knock the world off its axis.

What are your plans for the rest of the year?

Are You Ready To Be the Best?

BELL-CURVE-300x194

So you have a dream.  A dream people tell you is unlikely to come true, BUT it is a dream some people make a living doing — maybe a really good living.  So, there’s only really one question left — how much do you want it?

There’s Always Room at the Top

I was talking to a friend about their college degree and what they were going to do with it.  He said, “I like writing screenplays, but everybody’s writing screenplays,” and the words out of my mouth, before I even thought, were,  “Then why don’t you write a better one than their’s”.  I meant it honestly.  You can be the best — it’s just really hard.  The good news is most people can’t be that bothered to work really hard, even if they’re getting paid for it.

FIVE RULES FOR BEING THE BEST

Find the one thing you love doing more than anything else in the world.  This is really key.  You can’t ‘kind of like it’, or dislike it but think it’s a good way to make money and have it work out.  You can do it as a job, but you’ll absolutely never be the best at it.  The good news is the thing you were made to do is out there.  Just keep looking for it.  Remember — ‘You have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail.’ ~ Buffy St. Marie.

Make sure it’s something you want to do every day and night for as long as you live.  If you can’t stop doing it, thinking about it, or returning to it again and again, you will make it.

Hard work is the ticket to everywhere you want to be.  Now a lot of people have lost the idea that hard work can be a joy.  From our schools to a lot of our jobs, hating hard work is now a national pastime.  But it’s a pastime you don’t want in your life.  Step away from talking about work in those ways.  Instead remember the times work was a joy — spending all day building a fort as a kid, helping your own child with a scrapbook, or building a Habitat House.  Reclaim hard work as the key to every door you want to walk through and every dream you have.  And, when you come to terms with hard work as the price of greatness, a funny thing will happen — once you stop complaining about it, you’ll find it’s not really that hard after all.

Help other people, or at least, don’t hurt them.  Helping others succeed is one of the best ways to find success yourself, but it’s not mandatory.  What is mandatory in my book is not fucking with other people’s dreams, hopes, and happiness.  Every minute you spend putting down people (even those you don’t know and will never meet) is a minute you aren’t helping yourself become a better person, a better artist.  Like with hard work, break the cycle of talking about others in a negative way.  The world is filled with joy and abundance, but a lot of your success is contingent on you meeting the world with a positive, happy heart.  Don’t waste your precious time on haters, or being a hater.

Be only satisfied with your ABSOLUTE best work.  Compare yourself to the all-time greats — Gandhi, da Vinci, Fitzgerald.  Whatever you’re doing, never settle for good enough.  In fact, the words ‘good enough’ should make you want to puke.  A real mistake people make is to look at the lowest rung of anything and think, ‘If I could do that, I could make it.’  Now, if that inspires you to start, great, but what you really want is to WAY overshoot that.  My goal would be to have one of the top 5% best-written books of the year my novel comes out, really more like best 2%.  Audacious?  Sure.  But believe you me, it definitely keeps me out of the bottom 2%.

In the end, luck will play a role in any success.  But deep, soulful love of what you do and a willingness to work hard to rise up to the top of your powers in the thing you were born to do plays a much greater role.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out there and be the best!  I know you’ve got it in you.