By no means was this an ordinary garage sale. The white canopy that had been set up over the countless tables of assorted knick-knacks made it reminiscent of a full-fledged flea market. Judging from the constant influx of customers, you could only assume that the sale was the talk of the town.
We stayed for the last two days of the sale. The items Cassie sold earned her nearly $150. During our drive home, she said she felt sorry for me. When I asked why she felt that way, she said:
“You just worked for two days, but have nothing to show for it.”
I nodded in agreement. I hadn’t sold anything because I had nothing to sell. At that moment, it seemed like I truly did work for two days in exchange for nothing — because at that moment, neither of us could’ve predicted what was waiting for me at home.
Whenever I come home after being away from it for a while, I immediately turn on my computer and check my email. To me, it’s an arrive-at-home tradition as natural as checking one’s answering machine. As such, Cassie did not sense anything out of the ordinary when we arrived home and I beelined to the computer.
She did, however, sense something was up when I jumped out of my chair so forcefully that it wheeled itself halfway across the room.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Nothing,” I replied. “Nothing’s wrong, I mean. I’m just surprised at how many donations I received while we were away.”
Cassie, aware of how I occasionally went to sleep at night and woke the next morning with an extra few dollars to my name, then asked, “How many?”
“Seven hundred dollars worth,” I said.
Her expression changed from mild interest to profound shock. Seconds later, as her eyes and mouth shaped her face into a new look of anger, I understood how I really shouldn’t have said that. Not now, with our two-day travel pack still within arm’s reach of our front door. Not now, when we’re still winding down from our two-hour drive. Not now, at a time when $150 was supposed to be a fortune that made the entire two-day endeavor worthwhile.
We had a brief quarrel. It ended justly after she admitted that she was happy for me, and I admitted that my timing sucked. Having made up, I sat down at the computer again to reread the emails.
“Seven hundred dollars!” I thought. “It’s only the 3rd of the month!” ...and with this single thought, I managed to halt my income for the rest of it.
My mistake, of course, was that this money I received in early September caused me to become complacent. I was arrogant, smug, and consequently lazy. This was due to the fact that each time I sat down to write, there was less fear to motivate me.
I’d think about how the early arrival of $700 meant that I had already exceeded last month’s earnings. I’d think about how no matter how little I wrote in September, I would still see an upward trend on my monthly earnings graph. I’d therefore conclude that “I’ve written enough for today,” even if I had barely written at all.
When September ended, I had amounted only $805. In other words, a mere $105 if you don’t count the $700 freebie.
What happened was clear: I got cocky. An isolated event where I received $700 after two days without writing went to my head. I subscribed to the idea that my site would continue earning money even if I didn’t give it my full attention.
That was wrong. The donations I received were not earned by spending two days up North helping at a garage sale. They were earned from the previous five months, during which I spent nearly every day writing.
This is what’s hardest to understand about success. It has no finality to it. You don’t simply arrive at it one day, then take pleasure in all the freedoms and luxuries it affords you. It must be earned each and every day in order to maintain it. And when you don’t make the daily effort to maintain it, you begin to lose your grip on it.
Don’t make the mistake of becoming complacent. I did, and now I’m hoping that it’s not too late to bounce back.
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