IT’S WHAT MAKES ME walk out of par­ties, away from girls I would have cut my wrists to screw 10 years ago, be­cause I know I need to wake up early and work. Even now, mak­ing the money I do. Even now, when most peo­ple would kill to get what I’ve got.

THERE IS NO such thing as luck. There is only work. THERE IS ALSO stay­ing out of your own way. For most peo­ple, this is the hard­est. AT 16 I DROPPED out of high school. At 22 I got into Cor­nell. At 25 I got a job on Wall Street. At 28 I quit the job be­cause I was the Great Amer­i­can Nov­el­ist. Wrote one book, then an­other; couldn’t even get an agent, let alone a pub­lisher. At 30 I was broke and living in my par­ents’ base­ment, work­ing one job in con­struc­tion, a sec­ond job driv­ing an am­bu­lance, tak­ing Ri­talin to stay up writ­ing af­ter 24hour shifts. Most of my friends thought I’d lost it, had a ner­vous break­down, or, to put it mildly, over­es­ti­mated my abil­i­ties.

AS LEONARD CO­HEN pointed out, one of the most im­por­tant qual­i­ties in a young poet is ar­ro­gance. You need a bul­let­proof ego. That ego al­lows you to be harder on your­self, harder on your work, than any­one else will ever be. It al­lows you to take risks that other peo­ple think are in­sane. RE­SOLVE, in­ner strength—what­ever you want to call it—is a mus­cle. The more you use it, the stronger it gets. Most peo­ple let it wither to noth­ing. I use it ev­ery fuck­ing day.

TO QUOTE Miyamoto Musashi, a 16th-cen­tury samu­rai: To know ten thou­sand things, mas­ter one. Musashi had over 60 con­firmed kills with a sword. Read the Kauf­man trans­la­tion; the oth­ers are worth­less. MUSASHI WAS right. You only learn by mas­ter­ing things. First it will be­come a habit; then it will be­come your na­ture.

EX­CEP­TION: If you need to win ev­ery game of pool, cards, or check­ers, you have a se­ri­ous prob­lem. You have to know when los­ing is good. AM I THE MOST tal­ented guy? One of them. But at a cer­tain level, tal­ent stops mat­ter­ing. You have to be will­ing to call bull­shit on your­self and your ideas. In fact, if some of your ideas aren’t bull­shit, you aren’t try­ing.

CER­TAIN PEO­PLE WILL go out of their way to screw you. A third-string player hates noth­ing more than the guy who is headed for the ma­jors. Early in your ca­reer, some of th­ese peo­ple will be your friends. AL­WAYS BE PUSH­ING your­self. When I was 38, right as my novel The Son was com­ing out, I tried to join the Spe­cial Forces. I maxed all the tests, but at the last minute, the Army de­cided not to take me. In hind­sight, this was prob­a­bly a good thing. It was also the first time I saw I wasn’t go­ing to get ev­ery­thing I wanted. This was a good les­son, but I am try­ing to for­get it. Think­ing that way is point­less.

TO PARA­PHRASE CO­HEN: The world is con­spir­ing to si­lence ev­ery­one. In­clud­ing you. Don’t be help­ing it along. HUS­TLE IS stay­ing ahead of your karma. Help­ing peo­ple who don’t de­serve it. For­giv­ing your enemies. YOUR ONLY REAL fear should be that one day you will start to lis­ten to what other peo­ple say about you. It’s easy when most of it is bad. Harder when most of it is good. But still. You ig­nore it. It’s poi­son.

THIS HAS BEEN said a mil­lion times, but you have to take the hard­est path. You have to set the high­est goal. Why? Be­cause you will al­ways fall short. I HAVE NEVER got­ten ex­actly what I wanted. I wanted Har­vard, ended up at Cor­nell. I wanted Gold­man Sachs, ended up at UBS. I wanted the first book I wrote to get pub­lished—it was un­read­able. I wanted the sec­ond book I wrote to be a best-seller—it didn’t get pub­lished. The third book I wrote came out in sev­eral lan­guages but didn’t sell. The fourth book was a best-seller in seven coun­tries, but I wanted to win the Pulitzer. Ended up a fi­nal­ist. I know this will never stop. I KEEP hus­tling. ■

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