I overheard this conversation between two middle-aged men at a bookstore the other day. They were exchanging stories about their children who were about to enter their final year in college.
One of them said, “When I was her age, I didn’t think I was good enough.”
The other one replied, “Me too.”
If I could have chimed in, I would have said, “Me three!”
Loads of people have the feeling that they’re not good enough for their dreams. Many folks harbor this feeling secretly for years—past college, past their first jobs, past their thirties or forties even. I know I did.
For anybody who’s thinking about a career change or switching their field of work, this nagging feeling can rear it’s head just when you want it the least.
When I decided to pursue my dream of being a writer, I was gripped simultaneously by feelings of excitement/joy and terror/inadequacy.
What if I’m not good enough? What if I’ll never be good enough?
I want to share a short excerpt from my book, Build What You Want, that tackles this question. It was writing this piece for the book that helped me manage the nagging feelings of inexperience and smallness in my (new) chosen field of work.
What if you’re not good enough—yet—for your ambitions
We all know that we should be working on our goals if we want to achieve them.
We know about applying ourselves consistently, and clocking in our 10,000 hours to acquire expertise in our chosen field of work.
What we don’t always remind ourselves is that no one starts as an expert on anything.
And sometimes, this idea that we all start at level 0 is enough to frustrate and dissuade us from going after our ambitions.
Ira Glass of NPR’s This American Life once described the gap that exists between our ambitions and the reality of our creative results. You can watch Glass’ interview beautifully interpreted by two different artists, here and here.
In the beginning of any endeavor, there is often a difference between how you imagine your output will look like—how you WANT it to look like—and the actual results of your efforts.
This difference can be such a huge letdown that many quit at this point, thinking they’re not good enough for their own ambitions.
While Glass spoke specifically about creative work, his message is applicable to all kinds of pursuits.
The first time I put together a PowerPoint slide deck for my boss, the final draft wasn’t close to the crisp and powerful presentation I had in mind.
In my initial attempts at interviewing job applicants, I was far from the kick-butt interviewer I imagined myself to be.
It took me a while to get comfortable and get into my stride when leading and facilitating team meetings.
This gap that Glass referred to, it doesn’t only happen once. It reappears every time we stretch ourselves or branch out to new areas.
But with each attempt, it gets easier.
We learn to expect the gap and we know that with practice, that gap narrows.
The first time you write that paper, or teach that class, or make a speech, or paint a portrait, or dance the tango—you won’t always shine in your first attempt. Maybe not even in your second or third.
You may agonize over your outputs and feel the disappointment. You may realize that you work isn’t quite at the level or quality you want to be performing or producing.
But you will know that you can do better and that you want to do better.
So… don’t quit. Don’t let the disappointment stop you from pursuing your goals.
Do the work and put yourself out there nonetheless.
It is only through doing the work over and over, that you can close the gap between where you are today and where you want to be.
Build What You Want: 6 Keys To Your Best Career is now available on amazon.com. Does it feel like building a successful career is a hit-or-miss proposition? Be strategic and use the six basic keys to building a fulfilling and meaningful career.