Every successful person I know talks about the necessity of hard work. They talk about persistence. They talk about keeping to the road even when the journey is tough.

This common theme of gumption and grit got me curious—especially as I’m trying on a freelancer’s suit after years of wearing the predictable uniform of 9-5.

What does hard work really look like, day to day?  We know it doesn’t mean backbreaking labor a la Jean Valjean.

Hard work in today’s world usually means it is emotionally hard.  It doesn’t require you to shovel rocks, but instead to dig deep and find courage to try something that is not already proven to succeed.

Hard work requires the risk of failure.

Well, if we’re anything alike, you and I, I often find myself afraid of failure and closed doors. I don’t really like the idea of welcoming them into my life.

“Progress always involves risk. You can’t steal second base by keeping your foot on first.” - Frederick Wilcox

But two months ago, curiosity got the best of me. How many failures does it really take to succeed? How hard is hard work?

If I compared my rate of failure to a strong batting average—where hitting 300 of 1,000 throws is considered excellent—could I be a star player?  Could I succeed three times for every ten attempts made?

In a move that would make my baseball-loving father proud, I began to track my freelancer’s batting average in a monthly list called Hits and Misses.

First, I listed everything I tried during the month—everything that felt like a risk: writing contests, reaching out to guest post on blogs, asking friends to join my writing group, sending my book to influencers.  

Then, I moved everything from the original list to either Hits or Misses throughout the month. The Misses list was reserved for polite declinations and unanswered emails. Hits were the go-aheads and the letters of acceptance.

After two months of recording my attempts this way, do you know what I found? I found that if I were a baseball player, I would have achieved the unachievable—a .600 batting average, or 6 hits for every 10 tries.

By keeping track this way, the fear of failure has dissipated. Yes, I know it will be there, but I know success will be there, too.

Now curiosity leads the way. What will work this month?  How will I succeed? What will my new average be?

By letting curiosity instead of fear lead my heart, I’m willing to take risk.

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Becky Burton is a freelance writer and hopeful adventurer. Her most recent accomplishment is a 160-page love letter to New York, otherwise known as her first novel, The Audacious Magpie. She describes her blog as "a little spot of sunshine on the Internet." Through everything she creates, she seeks to celebrate the wonderful privilege of being human.

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