produce your own success story



Today I realized the best thing I can do to serve you is share a feisty piece I wrote in 2011. I promise, it’s worth reading (or re-reading)…

Pardon me, but I’m a little fired up today. While standing in line at the CVS to pick up some contact solution yesterday afternoon, I glanced at the cover of one of the weekly magazines and saw a feature on how “Ali from The Bachelor lost 10 pounds as revenge”… or something like that. Regardless of why she was losing weight as revenge (which is a pretty strange notion to begin with) or what she actually did to achieve the weight loss, I found myself with ruffled feathers.

I know that on another day, in the not-so-distant past, I would have stood there and wondered what she did to lose the weight, wondered how she might be happier now (I mean look, she got a cover feature), and speculated about whether I should try her methods to lose weight myself. But something inside me has shifted (at least for the moment). Ever since the trip to NYC and realizing my intention to pursue PR for Jess LC, my paradigm has changed. Rather than look to others successes for guidance in my life, I’ve become much more interested in my own actions and using those to propel myself further. I’ve become more interested in how I want to become successful than how others have reached their own successes.

Though I think there is a lot to be said about bibliographies, success stories, advice, and research, I also feel many of us are getting too comfortable sitting on the sidelines reading and watching other people achieve their dreams — and then attempting to replicate their achievements in our own lives.

The problem with this copycat method, I believe, is that it leaves us with a second-rate version of what worked for someone else, which doesn’t take into complete consideration all of our own unique factors. And therefore, whatever plan we follow, is innately going to clash with our individual abilities, motivations, and values – which ultimately leads to dissatisfying results, unmaintainable goals, or a simple lack of follow through on our part. Our actions need to speak to us on all levels, spiritually, physically, and mentally, and it’s very hard to really grasp that in a cookie cutter plan or a shadowed routine.

The one major concession I make in the above paragraph is when a particular plan does meet your individual spiritual, physical, and mental values – then the plan could quite possibly work with flying colors. Take my brother, for example. He has been preparing to follow the P90X routine this summer for almost a full year. He researched, thought about it, planned his meals, and devoted the hours he needed in order to reach his goal. He became so intrinsically motivated by the plan and the outcome that he faithfully executed each exercise and nutrition requirement to its fullest. He also reaped the rewards he desired in the process. On the other hand, I tried the Weight Watchers program for several months but finally realized I wasn’t seeing results because I wasn’t dealing with the right spiritual issue.

I maintain that many most of our failed attempts come from the fact that we are trying to fit ourselves into a prescribed routine that isn’t capturing our real desires. Or, we are fearful of failure and rush to find comfort in something that has worked for someone else. This constant focus on the information itself keeps us so busy listening to others that we are unable to actually devote the full amount of energy and attention that it takes to reach our goals.

I think this is because we underestimate how much time and devotion it requires to take action, follow through, and maintain progress. We think that if we “know” everything, we will be able to “do” everything. But the real knowledge comes from personal experience, until then, it’s just information in our brains. To follow with the magazine story example, we don’t really know how to lose weight until we actually drop the pounds. Until then we “have the weight loss information” without any experience to back it up.

So, back to my ruffled feathers, I am finding that for the first time I feel bold, less fearful of failure, and more focused on what I’m going to do next. I’m writing my success story each day that I take new actions and try new things. Not all of the things I try will lead to the success I am looking for, but each step ahead is one further away from where I started. It is a constant process that takes into consideration my personal values and goals. My path will be one-of-a-kind and unrepeatable because I am following my gut and trusting things to fall into place. I am following my purpose which is unique to me. Everyone is capable of doing this exact same thing for themselves, they just need to start tapping into what they know and stop looking around at the people next to them.

My Challenge to You

I challenge those who find themselves easily caught in the research and advice trap to take a minute this afternoon and write your own success story. Write out a future magazine feature story detailing how you are successful in three months, six months, or two years from now at the thing you are working towards.

For example, if you want to create a full-time business but are in a desk job, write the story explaining how you made your business so profitable you were able to quit your job after nine months. Explain what actions you took, what marketing efforts you made, what hiring decisions you struggled with. Write it all out and then use that as your own road map to success. Because when you stop and think about it, the story you just wrote captures your spiritual, psychical, and mental abilities and values. Your plan understands you perfectly and you resonate with it 100%.

In summary, stop reading someone else’s success story and start writing your own.


PS – Business in the City Chicago is coming up this Wednesday. I hope to see you there!


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  1. Brittany Warren

    Thank you so much Jess for this post! I started my business 6 months ago and while I have accomplished a lot in a little time, I have been hesitant to take the extra leap of faith and face my fears. It’s so easy to research, research, research, or make excuses as to why you can’t do something. I really needed to hear this today. Love your blog and your real advice.

    1. Jess Lively

      My pleasure and honor. : )

      Best wishes with the business!

  2. Guest

    Thank you so much Jess for this post! I started my business 6 months ago and while I’ve accomplished a lot in a little time, there are several things I am afraid to face my fears on. I need to quit researching and making excuses, and just make things happen. I love your blog and your real advice!

  3. Kim

    I loved this post when you first wrote it in 2011, and I’m loving it again today. It’s EXACTLY what I needed to hear. I’ve been struggling a lot with this all my life, always looking to others, comparing myself with others in hopes to make myself feel better about my direction in life but it doesn’t work that way. The ironic thing also is that the people I compare myself to, are people I’m drawn to and admire because they are doing what I want to do namely chiseling out their own path, following their own passions and trusting their gut. Not because they’re as you say….copying someone else’s story which I sorta end up doing. So the lesson I need to learn is that if I choose to look at someone else..I should learn to adopt their attitude in life, not the actual lifesteps they take….food for thought. Have a great day!

    1. Jess Lively

      What a wonderful and honest look at your life, motivations, and ways to design your own life with intention! Bravo!

  4. Alicia

    Killer insight and inspiration, as always. Love this!!

  5. Jess! I think this is my favorite post of yours. I am in the process of shutting down an old blog and launching a new one for June 1st. I have done so much research and planning…but it is hard to keep researching all of these successful bloggers when I feel so far behind! I love the idea of writing my own success story and then using it as a road map. I will definitely be trying that activity. THANK YOU!

    1. Jess Lively

      Great! I wish you success based on your own map!

  6. Bethan Axford

    I have just added a new habit 7 activity to my planner this week: think about “What does my ‘success’ look like?” Thanks for a great post!

  7. AdeOla

    Thanks so much Jess for another beautiful insight. It is amazing how the people who look to and compare ourselves to have one head too, but they got up and did something, change something when they needed to, cried and crawled when they had to, but they kept on going and moving.

    You are a wise woman, honest and relatable.

    1. Jess Lively

      Thanks, my dear! I hope you are doing well!

      1. AdeOla

        You are welcome. I am good, slowly but surely climbing out of a rut. 🙂

        1. Jess Lively

          That’s great to hear! Just keep “climbing.” : )

  8. Adriana

    You never cease to amaze me.Thank you for this post.

  9. Natalie Comstock

    I definitely remember this post, but I’m so glad you shared it again because I feel like this message is 100% applicable to my life right now. I totally get stuck watching and reading about everyone else and often have to remind myself to actually go do something to make it happen. Thank you for the reminder!

  10. regina

    It’s easy to hear but hard to apply sometimes. I have to remind myself of this when it’s easy to observe that someone is my same my age range/education etc. but is more successful.

    I heard “Trust the process” a lot throughout my yoga teacher training. Some people caught on fairly quickly while I struggled w/ teaching a full class. But in reality, though we were in the same training, we came from very different places/backgrounds/ages. People with a dance background or were actors/performers were already teaching full classes before graduation.

    I think reminding myself that even though people can intersect at a common point in time, where they came from before and where they’re going is going to be different for each person, helps. I still tell myself as (one of many) mantra to live by. “Trust the process.”

    Thanks for this reminder, Jess. Also, I’ll definitely try writing my story out!

    1. Jess Lively

      Beautifully put!

      I’ve heard it said from Joyce Meyer… that if you really knew what others went through to be where they are — the whollllle story, not just the pretty parts — you wouldn’t want their life anyways. I try to keep this in mind when I’m tempted to feel jealous of someone.

      1. regina

        Haha, so true! I’m putting trust in my own process to produce my own success story, and no one else’s — also because I don’t want anyone else’s baggage!

  11. Jess, this is awesome! Thank you so much for this. I’m definitely taking your challenge this afternoon. I’ve already included some stuff in my 2013 letter, but I’m going to do it in more detail for my business! I have such an issue with information binges (how does Tim Ferris put it?!) and rarely acting on what I’m reading/watching. I definitely need to get better at that.

    1. Jess Lively

      I hope your letter writing session went well!

  12. I really needed to read this today. I have the problem of trying to figuring out how to accomplish something by using someone else’s experiences and can’t seem to understand why it’s not working for me. I’m definitely going to try and write my own story today. Thanks for sharing this again!

  13. Ilaria Romano

    “Produce your own success story” was already saved in my favs 😉 Great inspiration, thank you!

  14. Ashley Howard Goltz

    A great reminder that the best you can offer through your business or blog — whatever specialty that may be — is you. Thanks for reminding me that the best version of me, is what I should focus on.

  15. I hear what you’re saying, but I think we’re missing a major point.

    I’m starting out as a freelancer and a blogger (, taking classes, frequenting blogs like yours that inspire me. Trying to find my own voice, make my own decisions. But the problem is that for so many of us, it feels like we have to make something out of nothing. And that’s intimidating for many; it feels impossible for most.

    I think the real problem here is a lack of MENTORS. Not just someone who we can copy, someone who takes a conscious role in our lives. Not some fleeting insight we absorb without ever interacting with that person.

    As far as careers are concerned, everyone is just in the middle of a self-defensive free for all — at least that’s what it feels like most of the time. So for someone self motivated and curious like me, I find that most people get concerned for their job safety rather than becoming a mentor to young people who could really use the help.

    Where did all the mentors go? I want one!

    1. Jess Lively

      Great point! I think that there are a few options: you could try to befriend someone one in your area as a mentor or even consider an internship with someone more advanced in your field Depending on where you are in life, that is often a key way to create that natural and authentic, mutually beneficial relationship.

      You can also consider reaching out to – they have retired execs who mentor for free (I’ve been seeing mine for 3+ years).

      I personally do some version of this with my own career through scholarship spots in my workshops for those under 25, I do a monthly free meet up in Chicago called Business in the City (this Wednesday!). I also do it for money as a consultant as well – which is my career and supports my livelihood. : )

      Best of luck with the search! I would first consider that it is possible and then see how you can make it happen. Maybe you write a success story for yourself in finding a good mentor?

      1. I think that would be a success story! I’ll have to look into these options. It’s unfortunate that there are so many options to have a passive mentor – for instance I am doing A Beautiful Mess’s Blog Love course and getting great inspiration from blogs like yours – But it’s much harder to find real people who will make the time of day for you. We’ll see what happens!

        1. Jess Lively

          Great! I really hope this works out for you.

          I’d consider finding a way to improve the life or business of the person you want to mentor you. It isn’t always just a one-way street. You can offer to help them in the ways that you can to make sure that it’s beneficial and exciting for the mentor as well.

          1. Ashley Laabs

            Oh absolutely. I’m in Metro Detroit. There’s so much revival going on, you’d think there would be something. It will probably just take a little more digging.

        2. Jess Lively

          Best wishes.

          My suggestion is to find a way to help the person you want to mentor you first. Have something to bring to the table. Make them excited to help you, knowing they are getting helped in return. Often, the best mentorships aren’t a one-way street.

    2. Jess Lively

      Also – I just had an idea! Why not consider starting a program like this – create the one you wish there was!!!!

        1. Jess Lively

          Well, that might explain why what you are looking for does not exist yet. But that mean you could be proactive and do what you can to make it happen. As Mrs. Meyer says, don’t complain about something, DO something about it. : )

    3. regina

      OMG Yes!! I would’ve loved to have a mentor for my yoga teacher training. I’m still searching for one. It’s hard because there’s a constant influx of new students and EVERYONE needs help! Teaching isn’t easy when you’re a student simultaneously, and not sure of your own voice/approach/style yet. With something like that, you have to sort of imitate someone badass you admire til your badassness comes out to shine…

    4. Soundous

      You are right Ashley. I’m trying to be a freelancer an I think I’ll start my blog too. But it is hard. But reading inspiring blogs such as Jess’s or Ega Jones is really lifesaving!

  16. Oh Jess – this couldn’t come at a more perfect time. I can remember reading success stories of people when I was 15 and thinking “ok they’re 25, I have 10 years to get to that level” – but after a few years and birthdays that thinking soon turns into “I’ve followed the wrong path – that person is 5 years younger than me and much more accomplished.”

    In recent years I’ve really started to follow my own path more and realise that comparing my reality to other people’s “highlight reels” does nothing more than stop me from really fulfilling my potential.

    This post is a great reminder to write my own success story! Thank you yet again x

  17. You know being 21 comes with an awful lot of “what should I do with my life” and yeah you look to others for inspiration and more often than not I’ve noticed that the outcome/ results aren’t exactly what you want.

    I’ve realised that I need to take charge of my life and work toward the outcome I want to see and what you said above basically sums it up. We need to start working toward the life we want to live, things don’t fall out of the sky and we’re not all over night success stories.

    I love your posts Jess, it has given me so much of inspiration and it answers so many question I’ll admit to being afraid to ask !

    Thank you !!

  18. Yes! I do this type of writing all the time. I have an “aspiration journal” where I write AS IF everything I want has already happened. It helps me get clear about the direction of my life and paints a beautiful image of my dream that I can hold in my mind all day. It’s fun to go back and read my old aspiration journals after what I was dreaming about actually happened.

  19. Soundous

    It is so good to focus on oneself for a change, thanks for the reminder Jess!

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