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The ultimate prize

I recently re-discovered a brief, powerful clip from Inside the Actors Studio and I’ve watched it, oh, about 1,000 times.

In the clip, a young, struggling actor asks Kevin Spacey – a world-famous actor who has earned multiple Academy Awards, Emmy Awards, and Golden Globes – for some career advice.

The set up: being an actor is tough. It’s not easy to get noticed. You might audition for one hundred roles and get ninety-nine rejections before booking one small gig that pays almost nada. It’s rough out there.

The young actor asks:

“How can we appreciate the lean years, the difficult years, leading up to the ultimate prize?”

Kevin replies:

“There is no prize… out there. The only prize is this one [gesturing at his heart]. What you feel.”

Cue: tears.

Kevin is right.

We all think we’re on a quest to earn the “ultimate prize” – fame, wealth, praise, a sold-out client docket, media attention, accolades, and so on – but that type of quest is never satisfying, no matter how much you “get” or “earn” or “acquire.”

We all think we’re supposed to grind along, slog through the tough times, and then one day, at long last, we get to (finally!) enjoy a career or business that feels pleasurable and exciting.

But… why do think this way? Why not experience joy, pride, and pleasure now – and later? Why not both? Why can’t this moment – this exact moment in your life – be your prize? And tomorrow is another prize. And the day after that is another prize. Every moment: a new prize. Inside your heart.

I’ve been thinking about Kevin’s words and, of course, I can’t help but draw a connection to the world of business and entrepreneurship.

Kevin says: the only prize is how you feel. Your emotional state. Your joy. Your happiness. Your pleasure. Your satisfaction. That’s the prize.

Which means – if you have your mind in the right space – then every single step along the journey of starting and growing your business can feel like a prize.

Starting your business is exciting. No customers yet. Just a fresh, open canvas and anything in possible. What a prize!

Getting your very first customer is exciting. The excitement of knowing that one person, one human being, sees your work and thinks, “YES.” Another prize.

Getting your second customer is exciting. The exhilaration of knowing that your movement is spreading. One more person in your tribe. Momentum building. Hello, prize.

Having your first repeat customer is exciting. Getting your first testimonial is exciting. Developing a new product or service, regardless of the immediate outcome, is exciting. Getting invited to do your first media appearance or interview, no matter how big or small, is exciting.

Joy after joy. Thrill after thrill.

Prize after prize after prize after prize.

The entire journey is the prize. It’s the only prize. There are no “lean years” and “fat years,” emotionally speaking. It’s not “suffer and grunt and groan for a decade” and then “luxuriate in your winnings.” It doesn’t have to feel that way.

There’s nothing wrong with hard work – “work” is not a dirty word” – but you can work hard and think to yourself, “This moment is my prize, my work is my prize, my journey is the prize, getting to wake and run my own freaking BUSINESS is my prize,” instead of thinking, “When oh WHEN will I get famous? When will I hit 10,000 subscribers? When will I hit six / seven / eight figures? When will Oprah call? When will I FINALLY get what’s mine??”

Instead of rushing and complaining and wishing you were “there” already (whatever “there” means to you!) why not savor the journey and celebrate every small victory – every moment, every emotion, every inner prize – along the way?

Feeling happy, in each new moment, as you work hard to make a difference in other people’s lives.

THAT is the ultimate prize.