Depending on your abilities alone will do more harm than good.
I thought I was the best guitarist on earth. I’d mastered a few chords here and there, gained some seasoned advice from a close friend who had his share in the music industry, and pumped myself up full of pride juice.
My dad signed me up for guitar lessons at 10 years old, proud of the fact that his son wanted to become a better musician. Yeah, that lasted for a day. I thought the lessons were boring. I needed something more exciting.
There was nothing standing in between me and the idea of strumming my guitar in front of hundreds, even thousands of people. It was all I could think about as a 12-year-old “prodigy,” with the hope of making it big someday.
I was talented. I’m not going to lie about that.
Those notes were coming through the amplifiers eloquently. People loved to hear me play, especially my family and friends. They would often travel from Kentucky to enjoy the sound of those strings on Sunday mornings.
But soon enough, that beautiful sound turned into something repulsive. After assuming that my skills would take me far in life, I stopped playing. I completely ignored the need to practice and hone my craft.
Looking back, everything I was doing revolved around my ability to do it. Little did I know that this kind of mindset is what kills progress, binding us to a place so far from where we should be it cripples us.
Complacency Breeds Laziness, A Downward Spiral
While I sat there relishing in my talented self, I started seeing less and less of a need to improve. I’d already arrived as far as I was concerned. What was the point of working to get any better?
This is what we call complacency: the idea that we no longer need to grow and improve.
Corrupting our minds into believing we’ve “arrived,” we settle with our abilities and not on the importance of consistently growing. Ultimately, it bleeds over into other avenues of life that we aren’t aware of.
“Hard work beats talent when talent fails to work hard.”
— Kevin Durant
It becomes a habit, a dangerous one, that levels our potential to the ground. Then laziness kicks in — the closest pal to those who insist on going nowhere.
I eventually grew tired of going nowhere. But I didn’t know where to start.
I knew something had to change, or else I would stay on the same stationary boat along with so many others. So, the turning point started with a will to continue going back to the drawing board, learn, and get better.
You Will Never “Arrive”
It may come as a shock to many people when they hear that the universe doesn’t actually revolve around them and their skillsets. But it’s still true. In this life, you have to work for what you want.
Nobody is going to simply give you what you want. And even if they do, it’s almost always too good to be true.
Forget about those who are handed the best on a silver platter. That’s the hand they were dealt. There’s nothing they can do to change that. The same goes for you. You have to work with what you have, or else you’ll lose it.
The keyword here is work.
I used to let comparison get the best of me, looking at other successful writers, musicians, athletes, and others. Then I realized that I was wasting much of my time thinking about them. I had a life of my own to live.
Instead of working on my passions—the kind of things that come to mind as soon as I open my eyes in the morning—I pondered on how they got there.
They are the best at what they do, I thought. The smartest thing for me to do is do exactly what they did.
While that may be true, it wasn’t just because of their talents, their natural abilities to produce amazing work. Winners have a knack for working harder and smarter than everyone else on whatever it was they were doing.
So I asked myself, Then, when are you able to consider yourself ‘the best’?
The answer is never.
You should never consider yourself the best at anything.
That’s what got me in trouble in the first place. That’s what cripples you and keeps you stagnant and unwilling to make progress. Too much pride will hold you back from going to the drawing board every now and then.
We often make things harder than they have to be. But we also do so in ways we don’t even notice.
Moving fast enough to try and keep up with other people, we leave improvement behind while complacency dictates our every step.
It’s not that talent is a bad thing. We all have something we’re good at. But there’s no need to let that go to your head. Keep consistency, a strong desire to get better, and a hunger to continue learning as your driving factors.
I’m a better guitarist today not because I settled with my talent, but because I’ve actualized the fact that I will always have something to work on.
I’m a better writer because of the same reason. This translates into every aspect of your life when you begin to see it.
That is a good and beautiful thing.
If you want to burn out, focus on your talents alone. If you want to do what you love for the right reasons and turn heads, never stop improving. It’s a decision you won’t regret.