I hear this all the time from writers. I want to be the best and I'm going to write the next American novel. Or my book's going to change the system. Or my thoughts are going to be the best thoughts.
No they're not.
I'm not knocking trying to be the best. You should always try to be the best you that you can be. And do the best that you can do. I was the number one sales person at my company in January. I was not the number one sales person in the world, or in the country, or in the state, or in the city, or even in my town. But I was the best in my company. I wasn't the best the previous nine months, but for that month I was the best.
So let's think for a minute about you wanting to be the best. Objectively, how do you determine the best? Is it the person who sold the most books/tickets? Is it the one that won the Pulitzer/Oscar? Is it the one published or released by the biggest company, or the one that gets the most traction? Is it highest DVD sales upfront, or most Kindle sales over time?
Truth is-- it's all of them. But they are diametrically opposed things. The most commercial project will never will the most prestigious awards. And the most prestigious projects will never be the highest grossing. It's just not how the system works. I don't know why that is, but it just is that way.
And thinking you, little old you, are going to change the system when the greatest writers in history couldn't is very presumptuous of you. Very presumptuous.
So I'm going to let you in on a secret. There are a few ways that you can judge if you are the best. And they are as absolute today as they were when I started.
- Are you doing your BEST work every day?
- Are you TRYING to IMPROVE every day?
- Are you HAPPY with the work you are putting out there?
- Are you for it FOR THE MONEY or FOR THE LOVE?
Now that last question is tricky because sometimes love and money do intersect. Michael Bay happens to LOVE his movies AND make a crap load of money doing them.
I am not Michael Bay. You are not Michael Bay. But I am the best at getting MY THOUGHTS out on paper. Because Nobody else has them but me.
If you judge yourself based on somebody else's life you'll always be miserable because there will ALWAYS be somebody doing something better than you. And there will always be people that hate what you do.
So all you can hope is that you can look yourself in the eyes and say this is my best work. I did this project the best I could do at this moment in time. Could somebody else do it better? Or could I do it better in a year or ten years? Maybe. But this is my BEST work.
If you've done that -- you are the best. Even though right now you suck.