How to Design Success


Well friends, this the last blog of the year.

If I’m being honest, I never thought I’d actually have a blog at any point in time… I mean, it was one of those things. Y’know, those things that you see someone else do, and you’re like, “…I bet I could do that.” and then you never do. But this time was different, and I’m so glad about that. Thanks for letting me share this incredible adventure with you! Don’t worry, I’m not stopping anytime soon… but I figured this would be a good of a place as any to let you know that I’m super thankful for your support with this blog, and for still reading the massive amounts of words that I pump out about random topics ever Monday! You’re awesome!

So, today we’re talking about New Years resolutions. Kindof.

This should be fun. Real quick, I’m gonna try and think of some of the things that I’ve accomplished or done this year, that’s in any way noteworthy to me. I’d encourage you to do the same.

In 2016, I…

  • Travelled to about 10 new places in the world that I’ve never been before.
  • Lived in Ireland for 3 months, planning, envisioning, fundraising, and executing the whole trip completely on my own.
  • Finished my second year of leadership training at Atlanta Leadership College.
  • Started a weekly blog, that’s been going for 29 weeks now.
  • Completed a week-long songwriting challenge, and now have another EP of music.
  • Made a whole buncha new friends, expanded my worldwide connections, and got a girlfriend (hey, girl.).
  • Created 100 consecutive daily vlogs, and learned how to make videos without any prior experience.
  • Made a ton of promotional content, websites, and social media content for conferences and events in Dublin.
  • Started The Smiles Page on Instagram, which now has about 800 followers and almost 200 unique portraits of people I’ve met.

Man, good times. But y’wanna know something funny about this list? None of these things were New Year’s resolutions at the start of 2016. Not one of em. And before you’re like, geesh, Aaron… how arrogant of you to talk about your accomplishments like that, you snob… If you wanna hear about the hardships, difficulties, failures, and shortcomings of 2016, you just lemme know when you wanna grab coffee and talk about it. Cause there’s a lotta those too. I just really think there’s a lot of value in evaluating your successes and celebrating them before you move onto the next ambitions.

And as a further caveat to this point, which doesn’t exactly line up with the rest of what I’m about to say here… yearly resolutions become a little less scary if you’re already always setting new goals in your life. The things I just listed were likely on a monthly basis — I had a goal, and didn’t think about it for months… I just did it. Some of you need to hear that. Years are too big of a caliper… start with daily resolutions, then weekly and monthly, and the culmination of all of those things will become your yearly resolutions. Anyways, carry on…

Now, I’m not really a “favorite holiday” kinda guy. Like, the people who are crazy about St. Patricks Day or Valentines Day or something, I just don’t understand you. But… New Years Eve is probably my favorite if there ever was one, and here’s why. 

Think about it… there’s really no other point in a year when you and every other person you know has a mindset of positive change, organization of goals, and actual motion toward some of the things that you wanna see happen in your life. Humanity is primed for change, the “fresh start” mindset is celebrated far and wide, and even culture organizes itself to see positive change in the world become a reality. Qualms and difficulties and failures are put back into perspective, and the past three hundred and sixty-five days are nearly forgotten in lieu of this fresh, exciting vision for the future.

That’s incredible.

But here’s the thing that I want you to understand, especially after reading my list of accomplishments for this year… the start of a new year is not about the resolutions. The real benefit of the start of a a new year comes down to one word: momentum.

There are about a million and a half self-help books, life coaches, podcasts, curriculums, and conferences that can give you steps to accomplishing your goals, and probably in 7 easy steps. But here’s the one thing that I can provide to you that they can’t… the way that I do things. In reality, anything that anybody says about accomplishing goals is doing that very same thing — they set a goal, figured out a way of getting there, and now has results to prove their method. Theories are proven through action — Methods are given value by their fruit. So with that, I’m gonna tell you a little bit about the way that I do things.

Story — Structure — Substance

When approaching the creation of things, this is the outline that I follow. Every time. I never really put this to words until I had the opportunity to teach a class about it a few weeks ago, and it was actually really beneficial to me. Being able to define this unspoken method that I’ve developed really encouraged me in that, I actually do have a personalized, unique way of doing things, and it works for me. I like that. And though this is for storytelling, this is also the way that I approach most of life’s goal-setting.

Story is king. Before doing anything I make sure to fully, deeply understand the reason behind it. When I make a movie, take a photo, write a song, or even have a conversation, I figure out what it is that I’m actually trying to communicate, before getting sucked into the details. Out of all the nuances of the process of creation, I believe that determining your why should take the longest. Everything takes time, but you must be sure that you’ve got clear vision for something before diving into it, headfirst, and without any reserve. Once I figure out why I’m doing something, then I figure out the format. 

I think this is where many people fail in goal-setting… they know the why, and maybe even what they need to do to make it happen, but they don’t properly plan and give structure to something that’s inherently lacking in form. Storyboarding is how filmmakers manage; Chapters is usually the preferred format for authors; A proper schematic is how an architect truly envisions a building; Recipes are the blueprints of a chef’s creation. You get the idea. Figure out your “story”, and then plan and organize and list-make the mess out of how you get there. Think of the hard questions before they come up. List out all of the possible failures, and how they could potentially happen. Make a pro’s and con’s list, defining and acknowledging every angle of your goal. And then comes the fun part…

This is unfortunately where many people start… substance. This is the actual creating. This is where the sculpting and baking and photographing and exercise and videography and flying happens. Though the first two steps are immensely important, this last step is what differentiates the dreamers from the doers. Ideas are cheap, and dreams are useless… unless you put in the work to make em happen. Hard work is hard, and doing new things is scary — but realize, that unless you make it happen, your goals will forever stay a nice idea. When you find yourself wondering why the heck you’re working so hard (cause trust me, you will wonder), delve back into your story. Make sure that your story is “hot” enough to reignite your passion for your goal, even if you were to totally burn out on it. Substance is what people see, structure is vital to making the best of what people will see, and story is the reason behind it all.

So, here we are. You’ve now read another excerpt from an unpublished, unofficial self help book, written by yours truly. Maybe you can give my method a shot, and maybe you’ll find some kind of success in that. That’s great, however… more than that I want you to copy my method, I want you to figure out that unique, individual way that you accomplish goals. Maybe that’s why you’ve failed in the past. It’s not that you didn’t have the drive, the passion, or the grit to make your resolutions come true… you were simply following someone else’s method of success, and it didn’t work for you. 

If you steal from one author, it’s plagiarism; if you steal from many, it’s research.
— Wilson Mizner

If at any point in time, you feel like you’ve “made it” or have a firm grasp on success or goal achieving… you need to get back to learning, and learning hard. The truest of art forms, the most robust of victories, and the most influential of creations have all been crafted by the works of others. You’re being influenced by every single thing that surrounds you — you’ve gotta choose what you allow to shape your story, structure, and substance. Devour those self help books. Crave to hear more podcasts about how to create a startup business. Immerse yourself in the art of learning new things. Before you know it, your method will emerge, and it’ll be awesome. It’s not an overnight process… it may take years, perhaps even decades to really design your success like that. But I promise you, even from the glimpse of results that I have… it’s worth it. 

Don’t rely on the methods of others — Design your own success.

I pray that in this day, you’ll be inspired, motivated, and stoked by the momentum created by the dawn of a new year. Congratulations, you’ve made it through this year! What a thrill, and what an accomplishment! Let that emotion fill you with hope enough for the challenges to come, and for the victories yet to be won. You’re incredible, and the world needs you. It needs the way that you create, the way that you talk to people, the way that you problem-solve, and the way that you fail — yep, even that too. You’re more valuable than you think, and your ideas are ripe for success. With the proper design for success, I believe that you are gonna accomplish amazing things in this next year. May the Lord stir your heart with unbridled passion, may He make you as bold as a lion, and may He reinvigorate those dreams that you thought were too impossible to accomplish. In case you haven’t heard it recently… I believe in you, I love you, and I’m glad that we get to do this life together. Happy New Year, and don’t forget to keep moving forward, friend.