Success is public – the work is secret

Before becoming known as Kendrick Lamar, he was called K Dot and released mixtapes showcasing his rap skills. While there were glimpses of talent, they were somewhat mediocre. However, he didn’t let that discourage him. He immersed himself in studying the techniques of both Eastern and West Coast rappers. He studied flow, how to wrap words around themselves, create internal rhymes, and play with words. He also studied how stories are crafted, looking beyond hip hop and delving into poetry, exploring the works of Maya Angelou and James Baldwin to better understand language usage.

Lamar tested his skills in battle raps and, after seven years, released his first studio album, Section 80. While it wasn’t a commercial smash, it received critical acclaim and established him as a rising star in hip hop. His second album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, released just a year later, was a huge success, reaching number two on Billboard’s top 200. The album’s storytelling and social conscience were widely praised. Kendrick Lamar is now considered one of the greatest hip hop artists of all time.

The lesson to take from Kendrick Lamar’s journey is that we often overlook failure and only celebrate success. We rarely see the behind-the-scenes process or the study and experimentation that goes into a project. We only see the end result, the hits, and not the misses. Sometimes we may come across a post about what didn’t work, but these are rare. Most projects fade away without much fanfare. Success can often appear binary, either something worked or it didn’t. But what we don’t see is the daily grind and the countless hours of practice and honing skills that lead to success.

Mark Steadman himself has gone through several pivots and improvements in his own creative journey. He constantly tweaks and refines his work, both in subtle ways and big changes. He shares his process and growth within the show itself.

Lamar’s story is a reminder that becoming the best in your field takes time and dedication. It involves countless hours of practice and learning, often carried out in private and away from the public eye. We don’t get to witness all the trial and error, the arguments, and the hard work that goes into becoming a successful artist or creator.

The takeaway from this is to not judge yourself solely based on your failures. Instead, focus on how you show up and your own progress. Don’t compare yourself to others’ success, as some may have gotten lucky with their early achievements. Everyone who has made it in their field has left behind a trail of things that didn’t work. So, instead of comparing your practice to someone else’s polished performance, keep working on your craft and embrace the journey.

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