When I was younger I was a damn good soccer player. If someone asked me if I was really good or great at anything I could always say soccer. I was good at other things, but I always felt confident on the soccer field. When I stopped playing competitively I didn’t have that great thing anymore. I never really put much thought into it, but having something that you are great at in your life means a lot. It almost gives you some purpose and I think I’ve been trying to find that again for the past decade.
I’m good at things, at least I tell myself that, but I realized when I started looking for a job two years ago I couldn’t put my finger on a single thing that I was great at and someone would want me to do. I’m really good at seeing the big picture of a product and nailing down the finer points, but am I great at it? I won’t know until a long way in the future.
Part of the problem has always been that I have so many different interests. I want to soak up everything that comes across my path and by doing so means I can’t stay focused on one thing long enough to know if I’m great at it. So as I look back at the past few years I must admit there is some disappointment because I haven’t done anything great because I haven’t been great at anything.
What made me think about this? I came across this fascinating essay by Merlin Mann called Better. It isn’t new, but I came across it for the first time and it struck a nerve. Everything I do online now is nothing more than a mimic of what I see others do. I can’t recall the last time I took an annoyingly long time to craft something. Sure I’m better at some things now more than I was a couple years ago, but that is only due to repetition.
But it does mean making mindful decisions about the quality of any input that I check repeatedly – as well as any “stuff” I produce. Everything. From news sources to entertainment programming, and from ephemeral web content down to each email message I decide to respond to. The shit has to go, inclusive.
Getting rid of cable was just one step in getting to this state. I’m also being more careful about the people I follow on Twitter and the sites I subscribe to. Twitter has a way of making me feel as though that I need to follow my friends, but unfortunately most of my friends don’t offer me any value on Twitter (but in real life all of you are Aces). The less people I follow means the less time I spend catching up on absolutely nothing and more time I can spend trying to do something else better.
As I work on being more of a producer and less of a consumer that also means I have to work on being able to focus on less things. It’s great that I want to read everything and be involved in a ton of projects, but at the end that just leads to not much.
I’m on the search again for that one great thing I can claim as my own and for that to happen I need to stop spreading myself so thin. Everything in the world isn’t worth doing and yet I’ve always felt the need to try. This had led me to believe that I haven’t done anything.
Can’t say I’m a fan of that feeling.
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