This week I came across two stories on two very different people, from two different industries who shared a huge commonality in their success stories. One that I’m sure most successful people can attest to: greatness in your career is determined by the things you do behind the scenes when no one is watching.
The first piece was Letter to My Younger Self written by former NBA star (and my crush when I was little) Ray Allen. The second piece was a feature at the Business of Fashion discussing Miroslava Duma’s career in fashion media. I had been following her street style photos for months not knowing who the petite Russian fashion enthusiast actually was, only to learn shortly thereafter that she’s a freakin’ boss.
In Ray Allen’s very honest and transparent letter on The Players’ Tribune, he warns his younger self about the obstacles ahead, and what it will mean to feel a constant sense of otherness almost everywhere he goes. He talks of grueling practices during his college basketball career under the tutelage of a very demanding coach, and reveals the secret to success in the NBA. Surprisingly enough, he explains there is no secret. “I know you want me to let you in on some big secret to success in the NBA. The secret is there is no secret. It’s just boring old habits,” he writes. In the next paragraph he discusses actual locker room talk. “In every locker room you’ll ever be in, everybody will say all the right things. Everybody says they’re willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to win a title. But this game isn’t a movie. It’s not about being the man in the fourth quarter. It’s not about talk. It’s getting in your work every single day, when nobody is watching,” he concedes.
When I first discovered Miroslava Duma on Instagram, I incorrectly labeled her a blogger, as did a few other publications. She and her group of Russian friends were popping up on Street Style posts everywhere, and people discounted them as just another clique of well dressed Europeans at Fashion Week. “Some people saw the fancy exterior but didn’t realize the amount of work that we put inside [our businesses],” she tells BoF. In actuality she built her lifestyle media company Buro 24/7 from scratch after putting in work at legacy publications like Tatler, Forbes Woman, L’Officiel, Vogue. According to the Business of Fashion, her site attracts seven million unique visitors per month, and she’s made it her goal to put her home country on the map as a major player in fashion, media, and tech. On Instagram, she’s at the best parties, rubbing elbows with the who’s who in fashion, but she’s building her empire behind closed doors.
Our image-obsessed world turns our focus to the highlight reel of everyone’s life. We don’t think about, or often times don’t see what it took to get to the red carpet, the front row, or the major leagues. True and enduring success requires a commitment to basic habits of work. Whatever work means for you. For me work is reading and writing in my scarf and my glasses with my head down. I can never lose my willingness to put in that work, or I’ll never make it to the front row, or the cover, or the red carpet. Your commitment to the work you do when no one is watching is what will determine if you make it. How committed are you to the secret work?