So one of the many, many, many lessons that life has taught me is that everything that I want to do is going to be harder than I think it’s going to be. I think I started off with the idea that people were just naturally good at different things, like sports, or playing an instrument, or making decisions. This was disappointing for me, because I was not naturally good at anything. As with all things, you don’t know what you don’t know, so I was fairly unprepared for the reality of life, which is that:
if you want to be good at something, you have to work your ass off for it.
One of my first eye-openers that I can do something that I don’t currently know how to do was when I started playing music with other people. Up until I was about 32, I plunked a few chords on my guitar and butchered a couple of songs on occasion, and mostly believed that I just didn’t have what it took to be a musician. Once I decided that’s what I wanted to do more than anything else, and met the right people who taught me what I needed to know, everything changed. That’s me on the left side of the picture, playing with my band at a farmer’s market and having a blast!
So, what did it take for me to go from a “no-talent” guy with a lack of confidence to playing at the farmer’s market with a band? Practice. Determination. Lots and lots of both. When we formed the band, we practiced 2 hours a day, 3 days a week, for a year. That’s about 300 hours of practice to get ready to play in front of other people. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The same thing has proven true for my writing. I’ve written an awful lot of short stories, and a lot of them were awful! The more I wrote, however, the better I got at it. I’m not anywhere near where I want to be with it at this point, but I am way better than I was when I first started. Last November I wrote Adventures of the Horse Doctor’s Husband. I sat down each day in November and wrote a 2,000 – 4,000 word story about one of the many interesting things that I’ve been involved with over the last few years. My writing skills improved on a daily basis during that experience, and when it was done, I had the confidence in myself to try a full-length fiction novel. It took me 6 months to write, but I just finished DimWorld: Foundation which is the first book in a dystopian fantasy series! Whether or not I become wildly successful as a writer is outside my control. Whether or not I am successful at writing books, however, is totally within my control!
When we look at people who are doing things that we admire, or aspire to, I think it’s easy to convince ourselves that we don’t have what it takes. When that happens, we end up sitting around not doing anything with our lives. I had that mindset throughout my twenties and into my early thirties, and I wasted a lot of my life believing that I couldn’t, that I wasn’t good enough. When I met a mentor who taught me that I can, and that it just takes work and commitment and determination, I found out that I can do all sorts of things. I learned how to write music, and I recorded my own album in my living room. I learned how to paint, and I covered my walls with paintings. I learned how to write, and I’m about to start on my third book. I learned how to be a decent human being, and I married an amazing woman.
All of these things are the result of a lot of hard work, and this is the message I would give myself if I could go back in time:
You are capable of doing incredible, amazing things! You don’t think you are, for a variety of reasons, but I’m telling you it’s true. Someday you’re going to learn how to do all kinds of cool stuff. You can start now; you don’t have to wait until you’re 35 to get going on it. Work hard. When you struggle, work harder. Surround yourself with amazing people who inspire you to be better. Every time you do something, you get better at it. Be patient. Trust the process. Work harder. Never beat yourself up for failing, it’s all part of learning. Some of the things you do are going to suck, but that’s okay! That doesn’t mean that you suck, it just means that something didn’t work out, that’s all. Don’t compare yourself to others, because they aren’t trying to do what you are trying to do. Don’t listen to people who speak negatively of your efforts. Love yourself no matter what. You are going to be okay, I promise! Just keep moving forward, one step at a time. You’ll get there.
P.S. Share this insight with others; they might not know. It applies to everyone.
J. Boyd Long is an author, blogger, website developer, and the CFO of Springhill Equine Veterinary Clinic. In his spare time (ha!) he likes to paint, read, canoe, and hike in the wilderness. You can subscribe to this blog in the big blue block, and future blogs will be delivered to your email. Warning: Subscribing may increase your awesomeness quotient. Please feel free to comment, and share this blog on your favorite social media page! To learn more, please visit JBoydLong.com