The Brass Ring

  • Posted on: 9 May 2014
  • By: Shawn DeWolfe

I’m coming off of a period of some hard, unrewarding work. It leaves me wondering, “How do I succeed?” It’s not mysterious alchemy. But I like to remind myself of what success looks like and what it looks like to see the brass ring and bat it out of the way.

Keep Doing It

Joe Girard’s 90-day blog challenge (and mine, now, too) is about plugging away and making things happen through repetition. Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, talks about the 10,000hr. rule. Keep doing something until you almost commit it to muscle memory. When I was copy-writing, I couldn’t angst and look for inspiration. I had to slam through copy in time to go to production. When I was tasked with writing a 300,000 word book (I dislike Prentice Hall), I just slammed through it.
In my 18 years of web development, I’ve seen it all. I know how to do anything. I know when to smell a chump. I know when I’m about to take on a problem client. I know how to make adjustments to accommodate the given client. Doing it builds experience. You can move well beyond the mechanism of how something is done and move into the point where you can execute your skills. You get there by doing it.


If you embark on something, finish it. Either don’t get started or do get finished. In the late 1980s, I had the smarts to figure out how to make the board game Civilization into a computer game. I had the courage to pitch it to Avalon Hill. They accepted it and gave me a spot in their schedule. I didn’t finish.
Fast forward six years. I fancied myself a screenwriter. I loved the cartoon, The Tick. I got the production office’s phone number. I phone them, I pitched them. They said, “send through your stuff.” Did I? Nope. Getting to the door isn’t hard as you think. All of the people don’t get somewhere don’t finish. Some don’t start either. I say: plan to finish and press to get there.

Be Opportunistic

The world is made up of people at the right time and in the right place. When you find yourself in an advantageous position, take it! Hard work will get you somewhere, but luck counts for something. When you get adept at your craft, look for places where you can make your own luck.
One guy went to Toys R Us and spent $50 on crappy ray guns. He filled a buggy with them. Next he went to Michaels and bought two cans of spray paint. A few hours later he had a table full of $40 guns to sell as Steampunk props. The rubes snatched them up.


I don’t really think this is your key to success, but when you wonder, “how did they do it?” -- in some cases, they cheated their way to success.
One guy shortcut a pricey education by graduating a year before the university he “attended” opened. By the time people were sniffing the resume, they never did the math.
One guy heard of a great IPO. He told his boss. His boss soured the milk on the IPO and dissuaded his employee from buying stock or even speaking of the dud deal. Then the boss snapped up $10,000 in stock and a week later cashed out $100,000 in profits. I don’t know why he threw cold water on the staffer, but he got the inside track on a solid bet.

So my advice:
  • Start
  • Finish
  • Be Opportunistic
  • Understand That People Cheat

Last updated date

Friday, September 29, 2017 - 01:50