• Jake West

Why We shouldn't Always LOVE what We are Good At

I have a confession to make: I could not read or write a full sentence until third grade. In other words, I was illiterate until nine years old… yeah, it was rough. I can still remember sitting in my living room dumbfounded by the complex letter my father was trying to explain. “W, it’s a double U. Two U’s… W”. God, I can’t imagine how torturous that must have been for him.

A personal anecdote, that is simply how my brain works. Nothing makes sense until it does, and only then do I feel that I fully understand it. When the English language clicked for me, I scored a hundred on the English exam. One hundred percent, not a single thing wrong. At the time it seemed like a glitch in the system, but in all honesty, I just figured out English. I just worked at it and eventually, it all came together.

I wouldn’t say it was a miracle, but instead an extreme amount of work that eventually paid off. In those school years, before I understood English, I was working non-stop. If I wasn’t in the classroom, I was with my reading and writing special aid. When I wasn’t in school, I was doing extra practice with my parents. Nobody gave up on me, and therefore I didn’t give up on myself. I did what once felt impossible, and then did it rather well.

Now do not get me wrong, I am not the greatest writer to ever live. I like to refer to myself as “good enough”. And honestly, I will take good enough, but I will not settle for it. I believe there is an important lesson to be taken from my childhood. One that I have had most of my life, and I wasn’t even aware of it. That is to not give up just because something does not come easy to you. Along with the other side of the lesson, which is to not devote all your interests into the things that do come easy to you.

I get it; in all honesty, I catch myself doing it too. Why waste your time doing something hard? Especially when it comes really easy to others and not yourself. In many ways that can feel embarrassing. Not many of us like to admit that we studied for thirty hours on a test, just to receive a B-. Alternatively, most of us would prefer to play football when we are twice the size of our peers; when those half-sized peers would probably prefer to play a board game. We like the things we are good at, arguably, we always have.

The problem with this is how it limits us. It narrows our skills and knowledge drastically. Limiting us from expanding outward with new interests and goals. In a way, I also believe it makes us quite arrogant. If you divot everything you know into the philosophy of hard science, then I feel it can be assumed that you are less likely to have your mind changed when someone comes in with a view outside of the hard sciences. Alternatively, I would assume that someone who takes in the philosophy of both hard and soft sciences (social science) would be more willing to hear differing views since they witness the clash of knowledge among fields on a daily basis. By limiting the things we care about and learn about, our perspective on knowledge and life is narrowed. I believe that it creates a bias that we have trouble escaping.

Another issue I see with this norm is that just because something doesn’t come right away, doesn’t mean it will never come. Lucky for me, I had parents who were not going to let their child be illiterate their whole life. After years of work, we eventually got there and I stayed steady at the English average for most of my life.

Yet that wasn’t enough for me. Eventually, I decided I wanted to be above average because I found an interest. I learned to write outside of the high school layout and began my blog. I was not good at the beginning and I would not say I am much better now, but I am doing it nonetheless. I find interest in it for what I could become if I continually do it, rather than what I am now. I feel this mindset has largely been lost because people assume that if it doesn’t come naturally, it will never come at all. Along with the assumption that if you’re not the best at it, nobody wants you to bother them with it.

Yet, there is a problem I can not ignore with the point I am trying to make. The issue is that people only want to see others do something if they are good at it. I would love to be a singer. I really would. Personally, I can not think of a better profession for myself. Except for the fact that I am tone deaf and everything within a mile radius has to cover its ears when I rock out in the shower. As much as I would love to be a singer, the rest of the world would not.

This is why not everyone can become the next John Lennon. We cannot all become gods at the things we want to be, but we can become good. I have found that the optimal amount of time to work on a skill is 20 hours. Of course the more time the better, but as the link shows, the marginal benefits peak at twenty hours. In other words, working on a skill for twenty hours is the most amount you will improve with the least amount of time.

Therefore, I encourage you to spend twenty hours on a skill or knowledge you never thought you could do. Something you avoided your whole life because you were never quite good enough at it. Personally, I started with the piano. I always wanted to learn but was never musically gifted. Nonetheless, I feel that I owe it to myself to at least learn, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”. I understand it is natural to only do the things you strive in, but as this blog tends to point out, sometimes… it’s good to try the unnatural.

Image Credit: https://dorkdiaries.com/

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