Schulz and Success

I just finished reading,  Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography (by David Michaelis) an excellent book that provided an in-depth look at Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts comic strip and franchise.  Schulz’s life was fascinating.  He was successful beyond his wildest dreams.  His characters became household names.  His sayings have been quotes by millions.  In many ways, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Schroeder, Linus, Sally, and Snoopy defined America in the second half of the 20th Century.

What most impressed me about Charles Schulz though, was that he determined at a young age that he was going to grow up to be a successful cartoonist.  Schulz set his mind to that singular focus and nothing could or would dissuade him from his lifetime dream – a vision that most of the people in his life did not understand nor support.  The success he eventually achieved in life was a direct result of his determination, hard work, and single-minded focus.

Success came slowly for Charles Schulz.  To achieve his ambition, Charles Schulz obviously worked hard, but as he started on this path, he also faced rejection after rejection.  People didn’t understand him.  Many of his ideas were failures.  He tried many venues in order to make his mark – and, for years, none seemed to bring him the success and recognition he felt he deserved.  Still, he kept moving forward.

Charles Schulz was ultimately successful because of the unique characters he created, his great talents in storytelling through simple pictures, and for his artistic abilities.  But, in a way, he was successful because of more than that.  Charles Schulz achieved his life’s dream simply because he never gave up.

While reading the book, I came across a short passage that speaks, extremely well  to why he was successful.  This passage reminds us what we each need to take from our own work – and our own lives.  I found these words from Charles Schulz to have deep meaning as I look to be successful in so much of what I do.

The passage reads:

(Schulz) explained, “When I have something that I know is good I feel wonderful.  I have a good time doing it, I enjoy the drawing, I enjoy making every little line as perfect as I possibly can and I’m very proud of a lot of the ideas that I think of.”

These words deserve some examination in a little greater detail:

When I have something I know is good, I feel wonderful.” – What a powerful statement!  This speaks, loudly, to the fact that achievement feels good.  Sometimes, I think, we downplay our successes.  We shouldn’t.  We should celebrate them.  Each small success leads to greater successes in the future.  We should never belittle our own accomplishments.  We need to perpetuate that wonderful feeling that success creates.  When we feed off our accomplishments, we find that we can, and often do, achieve even more.  Every great accomplishment begins with small steps forward.

“I have a good time doing it.” – When we immerse ourselves in something valuable, it feels good.  This is because there is great value in hard work.  When we invest ourselves in something, it adds to our life.  Giving of one’s self to a task, a project or a cause, adds significance and meaning to our lives.  This isn’t to say that every worthwhile experience is fun.  Some of the most rewarding endeavors are not necessarily fun but everything we do doesn’t have to be fun.  The successful person can find fun or meaning and satisfaction in every endeavor.  It’s good to work hard.

I enjoy making every little line as perfect as I can.” – As with the passage above, there is something very valuable, and rewarding, in striving for perfection.  It isn’t necessarily the end result that we need to focus on – rather it is the process.  There is value in the process.  There is value in striving – ever reaching.  I know authors who are never quite satisfied with any of their finished products.  Yet, as they work towards their various conclusions, they strive for that perfection.  And when perfection comes, whether it’s a line in a drawing, a collection of words, the big hit in a ballgame, or the time you actually did that kind thing you always hoped you would, it’s something very special.  Very special.

I am very proud of a lot of the ideas that I think of.” – And, in the end, that’s what we need to do – we need to take pride and gain satisfaction from giving and doing our best.  We have to know that we are going to fail more often than we succeed.  Yet, we still need to press forward and know that the efforts focused on productivity, kindness, and goodness are meaningful.  Not every idea becomes a comic strip.  Not every idea becomes an essay or a book.  And not every idea is a good one.  Some of our best ideas most often don’t even work out.  But all of that is okay.  It’s all good.

It is from our thinking and dreaming and working and striving that we eventually reach our goals and it is how we will achieve our greatest dreams.


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