Ten Secrets of Success for Creative Professionals

Ron Dawson
min read
Ten Secrets of Success for Creative Professionals

This year marks my 20th year in business for myself. During that time I've served everything from high profile artists to Fortune 500 companies to VC-backed firms. I've seen my fair share of mountains and valleys. As a creative professional myself, I've been a filmmaker, podcaster, writer, and marketing manager.

As we enter a new year, I want to share with your ten secrets of success I've gleaned over thirty years in the business world. Secrets that helped me grow a successful content marketing agency in the middle of a pandemic.

1. Find your one

I like to recount the scene from the movie City Slickers where the late Jack Palance’s character Curly tells Billy Crystal’s character Mitch the secret of life. He then proceeds to hold up his index finger and says “One”: the one thing that means more to him than anything else in the world. That is the secret to happiness.

Find the one thing that you’re absolutely passionate about. If you do that, you will find a way to make a living from it.

2. Shoot for the Stars to Hit the Moon

First of all, I hate it when I hear the saying “Shoot for the moon and you’ll land among the stars.” That’s just stupid. Stars are way, way further out than the moon. This belief of mine stems from the essay I wrote when applying to business school. I told the story of two eagles competing to fly farther than any eagle had ever flown. One shoots for the highest mountain top, the other for the sun. The former reaches his goal. The eagle shooting for the sun only made it as far as the moon (which is obviously much further out than the highest mountain).

The moral: aim higher and you’ll go further in life.

3. Think Outside the Box

Yes, I know this is a very clichéd saying. (I actually think saying "Thinking outside the box’  is cliché” has itself become cliché. But I digress). No matter how clichéd it is, that doesn’t make it any less true. In everything I do, I’m always striving to do things that bucks the trend: whether it was shooting at a 1/30th shutter speed during my wedding video days (when most videographers shot at 1/60th), to starting an NPR-style podcast for photographers, to doing an audio documentary podcast for filmmakers that DOESN’T focus on what camera they shot their latest film with. In everything I do, I look for a way to be different.

4. Surround Yourself with Winners

The fourth secret of success is all about the company you keep. From the people you hire, to the colleagues you hang around, to the professionals you look to as mentors, surround yourself with people who are successfully doing what you want to be doing. Also look to be around people who have succeeded in many different aspects of life.

5. Give

Always give your clients and those around you more than they expect. Shoot for positive surprises. But beyond your business, give to all around you. Give so that your giving outweighs your getting. Whether it’s helping others on their business and craft, giving of your talents to local charities, or sharing knowledge on a blog. The rewards will go beyond just repeat business from clients. There’s also the personal reward of contributing something positive to the world.

6. Stay in School and Stay Inspired

Always strive to learn. Continue to educate yourself about business and your craft. But look beyond that. Read magazines and blogs that aren’t necessarily related to what you do for a living. Watch videos that will give you insights into the human experience. Go beyond your bubble.

7. Embrace Failure and Celebrate Success

Poster print of Michael Jordan quote.
Poster print of Michael Jordan quote.

Among many other things, Michael Jordan is famous for his quote on how many times he’s failed at life, and those failures being the reason for his success. Be like Mike. Embrace those times in your life when you’ve totally flubbed. We often learn more from our failures than our successes.

But when you do succeed, celebrate it. When I first started in business, every time I signed a new client, we’d go out to business dinner to celebrate with our employees. Celebrations like this inspire your team and give you an opportunity to revel in your success. You deserve it.

8. Re-Evaluate. Re-Adjust. Re-invent.

You should evaluate every aspect of your business to see what’s working and what’s not. Then make the adjustments and tweaks necessary. The “re-” prefix suggests this is an iterative process that repeats. The last one, “re-invent,” is one of my favorites. Your long-term success in business and life will be tied to how often you adapt and evolve with the times.

9. Envision Where You Want to Be

When your start to envision your life and your business where you want to be, your mind will actually start making you act and interact with people as if you were already there. Those actions will then manifest themselves in your life and business in ways you wouldn’t expect.

10. Just Do It

This is a philosophy I’ve held  long before Nike made it famous. After you’ve done all the planning and researching for a project, there will come a time when there’s nothing left to do but to get out and do it. Go for it. The worst that can happen is you fail, which we have learned is just another inch closer to succeeding.

So what are you waiting for?

This List Goes to 11

In the spirit of #5, I have an 11th secret to success. Take time to stop, relax and meditate. Reflect on life and what’s really important in it. Keep things in perspective. That, more than anything, will lead to “success.”

So there you have it. Ten secrets which really aren’t secrets at all. I’m sure many of you do most if not all of these things. But, on the off-chance there’s something you’ve discovered that’s not on this list, share with us on social.


[Header image by Jared Rice on Unsplash]

January 6, 2022

About the author

Ron Dawson

Ron Dawson

Ron is a seasoned content marketer, filmmaker, podcaster, and published author with over 25 years of experience helping brands tell engaging stories. He's the lead content strategist and owner of Blade Ronner Media and serves as the managing editor of the Story Times blog.

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