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This episode is dedicated to a bit of feedback we got on the topic of feeling “not good enough.” What do you do when you’ve tried but fallen short? What if things just don’t seem to be working out? Do things just come easier for some people? Where does natural talent and acquired skill separate from hard work and deliberate practice? Can anyone with enough time, passion, patience, and practice develop the skills needed to truly follow their passion full-time?

We dive into these questions and talk about evaluating whether something is the wrong thing, or maybe just the right thing in a time of resistance. We touch on the internal rewards of hard work, why finding you don’t enjoy something isn’t a dead end, and finally the value of iterating in public.

Show Notes
    • 08:42 Feedback from Kathryn:

In your podcasts, I feel there is this underlying note of: if you have the skills to back it up. Or: if you’re good enough. You can be picky about selecting clients: If you’re good enough. People will want your brand: If you’re good enough. Be an artist, not a technician: that works if you are really good. My question is this: What if you’re not that good? You don’t have the talent it takes.

I watch the show Shark Tank because, well, I’m really nerdy. But what I see a lot of are people who come in with their passion that they have poured countless hours and funds into and they are going to “make it big” with this idea. Then the investors talk to them, look at their product/business and see without the rose-colored glasses that what they are presenting is not that great.

Some have even told people on the show, “This isn’t it. Maybe this ‘product’ isn’t the one. But you have so much passion that you need to keep searching and move on to the next idea.” Naturally, the person pitching their idea is devastated and often in denial. Now, a few have had the attitude of “I’ll prove them wrong” and have. But most you never see or hear of.

What do you say to the person who signs up for your “Master Class” because they are going to be the Next Great Letterer but they don’t have enough talent at the end of the day to push them to where they want to be. What if the art form they want to be their big hit just isn’t? Or they just aren’t that good?

Or maybe I’m missing something. CAN 200,000 people be a hot commodity in the lettering world? Can anyone acquire enough skills to make up for a lack of natural talent (like your brother with piano)? Where does natural talent and acquired skill separate from hard work and deliberate practice? Can anyone with enough time, passion, patience, and practice develop the skills needed to truly follow their passion full-time?

Obviously this is rooted in the fear of failure but I think it goes beyond that. I’m looking at the person who has put their everything into it and years later no one is buying (or to the extent they want). At what point does that person need to change direction or switch focus?

    • 12:18 What is “good enough”?
      • How long have you been trying?
      • What have you been trying?
      • “Good enough” for what?
    • 14:45 Comparison is the thief of joy.
    • 15:19 Don’t get caught up in looking at design porn. If you take in tons of design and just passively wish it was you who made it, you’re basically quenching your creative fire by dousing it in buckets of inspiration. Go create more.
    • Avoiding Imitation
    • 17:29 Immerse yourself in inspiration and then sleep on it. Create the next day from memory—without reference. This is what will keep you from imitation. This is what will make it more organic, and more unique, and more you. Stop using mood boards.
    • 18:31 Feeling like you’re not good enough is common when you’re first getting into an industry. You see the forerunners, you see the really good work—the cream of the crop, the stuff that rises to the top—and you feel inadequate. But what you really need to be doing is not spending so much time SEEING and more time DOING.
    • 19:38 Right now you need to just be creating a bunch. Create, create, create, create. Focus on that. Don’t focus on the “not good enough.” Your sense of accomplishment should come from checking the box for “I have a deliberate practice session today.”
    • 20:00 Don’t delete your early work.
      • It reminds you of where you came from.
      • It shows you your progress.
      • It reminds us where we came from (it’s easy to forget).
      • It encourages other people.
      • It shows people that you came form the same place—it’s not magic, it’s persistence over time.
    • Talent vs. Hard Work
    • 24:09 Everybody has to work hard to become excellent at something.
    • 24:40 Hard work beats natural talent that doesn’t work hard.
    • 27:55 Don’t compare. You really cannot get all of the factors to accurately do that.

There are internal rewards of hard work.

    • 30:09 What are your standards what were your goals before you decided the results were not “good enough”? Evaluate your expectations.
    • Is This Really the Right Thing?
    • 30:46 Could this be:
      • The wrong thing for me now?
      • The wrong thing for me ever?
      • The wrong thing for me in this context?
      • The wrong thing for me at this job?
      • The wrong thing for me around these people?
    • 31:27 Do you enjoy the act of doing this thing, or merely the results of it?
    • 32:27 Don’t focus on the pay-off. Focus on the doing and finding something where you have joy in the process.
    • 38:07 “What if you started off liking the process, but got burnt out by it?”
    • 38:18 That is the discovery of not liking the act of something. It’s different from resistance. Every single pursuit you have, will have points of resistance. Overcoming points of resistance is what will show you that you truly love to do something. That’s the only way you’ll know—the other side of resistance is how you know that you love something. That’s how you differentiate between resistance and identifying the fact that you don’t actually like doing something.
    • 38:58 Be willing to admit that you don’t enjoy the process of doing this thing.

Finding that you don’t enjoy the process of something isn’t a dead end. It’s progress.

    • The Value of Iterating in Public
    • 39:56 We want closed doors because it points to where we should be going.
    • 41:22 Iterate & Learn. Iterate in public, help other people, teach what you’re learning.
    • 42:00 Iterating in public:
      • Blog about it
      • Talk about it
      • Document your process
      • Do case studies
      • Show comparisons
      • Explain one of your dead ends
    • 42:28 Stop thinking you’re such an edge case. People care. People Google random things—and when they come across your super-specific example, it’s going to be so impactful.

You have no idea how somebody else’s situation might be similar enough to yours that they can draw inspiration from you sharing your story.

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