Discover more from Jaime's Musings
Doing Things You Aren't Good At (Yet)
Growth Happens Outside Your Comfort Zone
“Most of us, raised on a steady diet of instant gratification, are frightened when we consider pursuing a goal that will take us years of effort to complete.
Many of us are dissuaded from beginning, from taking that first step, because it will take twenty years to reach the goal. But someday we’ll be twenty years older anyway, God willing! Wouldn’t it be nice to be twenty years older and have accomplished the goal?”
Wisdom from the Batcave (Cary A. Friedman)
What are things you aren't good at that you wish you were good at? How much effort have you put into those things? How much effort do you think people who are good at those things have put into them? How much of your potential are you preventing by telling yourself you are not good at those things (and others)?
For years I would make a new year's resolution to read much more than I ever had (26 books a year was a common goal). At the time I was maybe getting through 3 or 4 books in a year. For years, I would fall incredibly short of this resolution. Starting in about 2006 I started to make real progress towards these goals. I would still fall short, but I was reading enough that I felt good about it. I was learning interesting stuff in non-fiction books. I was reading engrossing fiction. I was developing new ways to view and navigate life and the world through this reading. I wasn't reading as much as my new years resolution set out for me to read, but I was finally reading enough to identify as a reader. Now I read as much as I used to plan and hope I'd read. When I knew I’d only read a couple books in a year it seemed extraordinarily important to pick the absolute best and most important book possible to read. Now I can just read something.
I have always had an aptitude towards the "left-brained" activities in life. I self identified as such, and basically entirely wrote off my artistic abilities. When I was in 3rd grade I took recorder lessons for a day and gave up. Whenever I tried to draw, the results were basically stick figures or houses that were a rectangle with a triangle on top. This very quickly resulted in me spending zero time trying to draw. At some point in my 20s I had some professional success that meant I could, at least for a time, live a life where I could spend much less time working than I had been so far in my (short) adult life.
What was I going to do with this time? In addition to increasing my reading, I decided I would try painting. I bought some watercolors and a watercolor pad. The art my “right-brained” brother made as an 8 year old was better than what I was now doing as a 23 year old. I didn't quit though. I got a book about colors. I got a book about drawing. I experimented. I found that, despite my inability to draw things that looked the way I wanted them to look, I could put colors together to make abstract paintings that I enjoyed painting and enjoyed looking at after they were finished. My identity with respect to art had transformed. My confidence in approaching drawing was now changed, and when I drew still life or my favorite comic book characters, I was now making art I didn't feel ashamed of. I was making art I felt proud of.
Every so often when I was living by myself I would buy a couple houseplants. They would inevitably languish and die. I did not have a green thumb. At some point after that I got a girlfriend (who is now my wife) who grew a small amount of herbs and vegetables. When I was at her house and one of us made a salad we would add some fresh basil and a diced hot pepper straight from the garden. I absolutely loved it. The next spring our relationship was more serious and I went with her to buy plants for the year. We bought a few more plants (strawberries and kale if I remember correctly) that she hadn't grown before that I thought would be nice. I had a vested interest in the success of these plants, and an intellectual curiosity in what I could do to achieve that successful outcome. I read some articles on the internet, I got some books from the library, and mostly, I watched YouTube videos (The Rusted Garden is my favorite gardening channel). Now my wife gets to laugh at this at the beginning of every spring while I make my potting mix and up-pot my seed starts:
Since then I have grown an obscene amount of carrots, cucumbers, raspberries, eggplants, tomatoes, kale, arugula, etc. Now every winter I get the new Baker Creek Heirloom Seed catalog and pick out what I’m going to grow in the next growing season and I love it.
Lately I’ve been undergoing this forward progress with chess, a game I used to tell myself I didn’t have the patience for. Hopefully through the process of writing this newsletter I can move writing from the list of things I tell myself I can’t do well, to the list of things I can do well.
“This lesson about the endless capability of every human being is the single most important theme of Batman. It is this greatest of all truths that defines the essence of the Batman and accounts for his enduring appeal. The Batman, more than any other literary character, reminds us that every person has an infinite capacity for achievement.
If we do not realize that potential, it is only because we do not believe we have it. But it’s there, all the same.”
Wisdom from the Batcave