I am not, nor have I ever been, excellent at any one thing. This used to bother me. I had friends who were talented artists, or musicians, or terrific athletes, but not me. In being a singer, guitar player, and designer, I always knew I would never be the best, nor ever reach fame and fortune for these tasks. The problem with this, was that it caused me to be distracted from the joy of such things, for the thought of failure at perfection.
After college I worked at a residential group home school where I started as a case aid, then became the GED Coordinator. In teaching GED math, I learned a profound lesson that would ripple through the rest of my life forever:
The kids in my class would get so overwhelmed by fractions. When I was a teenager, I was TERRIBLE at math. I hated the subject. I hated math because I didn’t understand it, and it seemed so hard. The highest math I had ever achieved was Algebra 1 and Geometry. However, when I taught the kids in my program, it all made perfect sense. Fractions were easy, and algebra was . . . fun?
The next year, I was asked to give one-on-one instruction to a student in Algebra 2. As mentioned before, I had never taken Algebra 2, but I could read and understand the textbook better than he could, so I took on that task and found the same thing. Algebra 2 was easy – fun even. I enjoyed teaching, and wasn’t intimidated by the math because I now understood a further truth:
After teaching for three years, I decided to see about designing (which was my college major) and got a job at a sign company. While I was there, we would develop custom solutions, and spend time thinking out of the box. I enjoyed this so much more than designing, that I became interested in Engineering. In the summer, I started on the Engineering track at the local community college, getting some prerequisites out of the way. I took Trigonometry 1 and 2. It was simple, something about understanding how it all works made sense. This new confidence spurred me on to realize this:
And that’s the point I want to leave you with. Don’t hold yourself back because a task seems daunting. Every task has it’s own value of cognitive dissonance (the feeling of your brain shaking a big “NO”) that a person must push through in order to obtain control. The goal is not to obtain mastery, but competence in any area you like. Don’t hold yourself back because you’re not the best at any one thing; instead, build confidence by learning a new skill.
Joseph Hinson is the president and owner of Out:think Group, a firm that helps authors build their platforms, connect with readers and sell more books.
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