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How To Know When You’ve Fully Paid Your Dues

morgan-freeman-godHow long does it take to pay your dues?

Here’s some motivation for you to pick yourself up today and push. Push harder than you normally would. Even if it’s Friday and you don’t feel like it. Even if you think you’re on top of your game and can’t go any higher.

Why go to that length?

Ask an actor or theater buff about the art of paying your dues and you will most likely get the same response: You pay your dues for life.

Even the most successful names in the business recognize that the end game is actually retirement. Fame is not the end goal you’re seeking if you want to thrive. Read that again and let it sink in.

This is a mindset thing. Mindsets determine worksets and how successful you actually end up being. It applies to everyone in every field. My friend Matt Belair talks about how mindsets are the key to elite athleticism, not physical prowess itself. More on this in a minute.

Entrepreneurs struggle with this concept too. Small business owners and even icons stop short of fully paying their dues before they should. The result is they have to work harder and dig deeper to make up for lost momentum.

What does it mean to pay your dues?

I have a few interpretations of this including that you have to be invested in your craft for a period of time and not a rookie or someone starting out. That’s one step of the due-paying process.

You need experience in your field. Having a resume of sorts to show that you’ve been through some fires. Illustrate that you’ve tried and succeeded while also trying and failing.

Failure is a great teacher, and also a truer indicator of someone who is going to achieve great things. Failure to face failure and rise again is an indication of someone not truly vested in their journey. Don’t skimp out on your failures to try and show yourself as a perfect person. Leaders BS meters go off quickly with that stuff. So do everyone else.

Paying dues can mean several things, but the big picture is overcoming the tragic mindset of arriving. That old adage that “Life is a journey, not a destination” applies here. It means you keep honing your craft until you’re completely finished with everything you will do with it.

You pay your dues until the game is fully over

I’m a fan of Chris Hardwick. I speak for fellow comic-book nerds who have been misjudged because of our passions for (at one time) unpopular things in citing Hardwick as a hero. His Nerdist podcast is excellent because he speaks with people from many different walks of life. The conversations almost always highlight some profound truth that changes the way I think.

One of his archived podcasts was with Morgan Freeman. There’s a million reasons to love Freeman. Including his voice and the fact that he has played both God, Nelson Mandela, and Batman’s tech-brain (Lucius Fox) among other notable roles. In the podcast episode (listen here), Chris asked Morgan if he felt like he didn’t have to pay his dues anymore.

Morgan Freeman’s response was incredible. He said, “Nowhere is it written that your career has to ever be stabilized.”

Morgan Freeman still considers himself to be paying his dues

Think about that for a minute.

Of all the actors in Hollywood, there are a short list of A-caliber individuals who can get any role, any time, without an audition, shot-call any paycheck that they want. Freeman is on that list.

And he still feels that he’s paying his dues. This goes to show you that to be truly great, you never stop giving your all and proving your worth in everything you do.

It’s about your mindset. It’s about getting out of your own way. It’s about committing to the process and not taking your foot off the accelerator. It’s also about making sure you are putting love into your heart and mind garden to keep things moving forward. What does that look like? It’s detailed and explained thoroughly in the Growth Farming Affirmations For Success ebook.


Let’s take it a step further into a different field. No one who watches professional sports will question the awesomeness of JJ Watt. Aside from being one of the most kind and benevolent people on earth, he’s also an elite athlete. So elite that opposing offensive coaches have devoted whole days of practice to just trying to combat his skills.

The dude commands a big paycheck ($100 million for 6 years and a $10 million signing bonus). He puts up big numbers, even when he’s injured. But that’s not what makes him elite. And not why we’re talking about him here.

Watch this guy train in the video above. Look at how he pushes himself in the off-season. This is what his daily workout schedule is like. His coaches talk about how Watt trains like he’s a 7th round draft pick who’s still trying to make the team.

Think about that. He’s the #1 defensive lineman in the NFL and has been for 4 or more years. And he’s still working like he’s got a ton of dues to pay. Which is a lot of food for thought for each of us in the work we commit ourselves to. Let Freeman and Watt be models for you to have as you push yourself to the next level.

Here’s the BIG takeaway

You’re not going to finish paying your dues as an artist, musician, actor, entrepreneur, business owner or otherwise until you retire and hang up your gloves permanently. You may reach a level of success where you don’t have to work as hard or as long as you do in your early days, but that’s an attitude decision, not a reality decision.

When your attitude is to give your best every time, no matter what, you will have success that follows you everywhere. Proof of this is what Mick Jagger told Rolling Stone after saying that at 72 years old he and the band still want to play a world tour.

“Always play your best show, every time.” -Mick Jagger

Based on that statement by one of the biggest names in the history of recorded music, telling artists that they still have to perform at their highest level each and every time regardless of how successful they may be is indicative of never fully paying your dues.

Mick Jagger (Photo: Marty Melville, Getty Images)If Mick Jagger hasn’t fully paid his dues, neither have you

What this also means is that we as Due-Payers should be looking for help in all we do where needed, and be humble enough to ask when we realize there’s something we don’t know.

I’m in that boat too. Which is why I’m doing the work consistently to grow, improve, and make myself better.

How can you live, work and improve yourself? What steps can you take to elevate your life to this kind of excellence? Let’s talk. I can help you know how to do what these power-players do to take your life, your work, and your greatness to the next level.

 

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