You’ve Done Better

Do you know that one thing that you’re really good at?  Everybody does, even though you might not see it.  If you haven’t found yours yet, keep looking — it’s there.

Sometimes, though, you find yourself taking way longer to do it than usual, and when it’s done, you’re not pleased at all with the outcome.  I’ve been there.  You over-criticize yourself, knowing that last time it only took you two hours instead of five, back in March you did it for $20 worth of materials instead of $40, the details were that much clearer in your last one, or you hit all the right notes when you were practicing that morning.

Stop it.

There are always peaks and valleys.  When you get good at something, you will always have done it better at some point.  And guess what?  You’ll find that there will be a time where you’ll exceed the “before.”  It will come if you’re patient and diligent.

In the meantime, show your finished product to someone else who isn’t as good at it.  Guaranteed, if they’re honest (and not a total jerk), they’ll see that talent within you and compliment you on it.  Here’s the key:

Don’t shut it down.

Do not reply with, “I’ve done better.”  Do not even think about opening with all the things you see wrong with what you’ve just done.  You’ll make it awkward for the person you’re talking to, and you’re deliberately killing not only your own self-esteem, but the likelihood that the person will ever let you know how they feel in the future.

Say, “Thank you.”

Yes, you’ve done better, but you’ll learn to do better again.

Bad Work

I spoke with someone last week who told me, in his professional photography days, he was mentored by the then-editor of Vogue.  One day, he asked his teacher how one could ascend the ranks and attain such a lofty title.  His advice?

“Never show anyone your bad work.”

Let’s throw aside the practicality of that advice, for a moment, as it pertains to your job and career, and other things that affect your paycheck.  It’s sensible advice, to an extent, but I think we often find ourselves applying that ‘wisdom’ in all the wrong places.

Take that word, “anyone,” and replace it with something more personal:

Never show your [spouse] your bad work.
Never show your [friends] your bad work.
Never show your [church] your bad work.
Never show your [kids] your bad work.

Those sentences worry me, because they remove the inclination to be real with people — to show others that you don’t have it all together.  That’s okay; none of us have it all figured out.

That Vogue editor knew he had “bad work,” not only in photography, but in other areas of his life.  Do you think he never showed his mistakes to his family?  I certainly hope that’s not the case.

No one is perfect.  Don’t be afraid to be honest about your shortcomings and find comfort in your community.  Learn from others and laugh at the experience.  Show others that it’s okay to fail.  Everyone does.