Barack Obama On Finding Success: ‘Keep It About The Work’

Barack Obama On Finding Success: ‘Keep It About The Work’

If you’ve ever felt stuck, struggled with self-doubt, or worried about finding success, US president Barack Obama suggests you stay focused on working your craft.

Photo by Joe Crimmings.

Whatever your political tastes, becoming the President of the United States is a mark of success. Obama wasn’t always successful, though. In a recent interview, Obama was asked about a time when he felt the most broken. Here’s how he responded:

I first ran for Congress in 1999, and I got beat. I just got whooped… Then for me to run and lose that bad, I was thinking maybe this isn’t what I was cut out to do. I was forty years old, and I’d invested a lot of time and effort into something that didn’t seem to be working. But the thing that got me through that moment, and any other time that I’ve felt stuck, is to remind myself that it’s about the work. Because if you’re worrying about yourself — if you’re thinking: ‘Am I succeeding? Am I in the right position? Am I being appreciated?’ — then you’re going to end up feeling frustrated and stuck. But if you can keep it about the work, you’ll always have a path. There’s always something to be done.

Sometimes success is just a matter of time; a chance opportunity that can come whether you’re ready or not. So instead of getting frustrated at your lack of success, keep doing what you do best. Keep honing your craft and sharpening your skill so you’re ready when opportunity does come along. You’ll never be stuck, just gradually moving forward. Remember, true success does not happen overnight.

“When is the time you felt most broken?” [Humans of New York via Cal Newport]


  • He wasn’t cut out for it. He was right the first time around – should have listened to his gut instinct.

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