I don’t pretend to be an expert on the subject. I spent 30 years feeling like I was never going to find it. Success was something other people found. The pretty people.
Here’s the thing. There are people who can try something random, do really well at it, and suddenly make a career. I spent my whole life watching it. In school, there were other kids who excelled. They were just good at Math, or History, or English (or whatever.) I was not. That’s not to say I was horrible stupid, or a bad student. But, I didn’t graduate a valedictorian either. There were kids who just excelled at PE. They could just run quick, or catch a ball, or whatever. They just had a body that was naturally made for that. My body has never found success at the physical things.
Even as an adult. You see people who just excel at whatever. It seems effortless. Co-workers who seem flawless, who knock every project out of the park. Moms who seem perfect. We are all surrounded by examples of adults who climb mountains, cook amazing meals, and having amazing career trajectories that seem to zoom towards the Moon itself. (You know, adultier adults.) Of course, social media’s ability to show only the highlight reels of our lives help create the illusion.
I used to envy these people. As a kid I would cry in my bed because every skill that came across my path I seemed to be (at best) mediocre. Until I was almost 30 I felt ugly, dumb, and worthless. I told myself not every one can excel. That’s just not how the world works.
Here’s the thing. My problem was I chasing after what everyone else was good at. I was judging myself poorly because I did not have the same skill sets as other people. And, it’s true. I’m not a great housekeeper. Math is my achilles heel. I’m not incredibly outgoing, or athletic.
What turned my life around was learning to accept myself, not for what cookie cutter society was pushing at the time, but for what I am naturally great at. I do not fear a stage, something few others can say. I always ran away from being in the center of attention, for fear of being an “attention whore.” I have intellectually dirty sense of humor. These traits, when accepted and utilized, have led me to opportunities and success 16 year old me would have never believed. (Though, it’s not like I’m anything that special. Yet.) Once I stopped chastising myself for wanting to be behind a microphone, I realized I was meant to be there. Laughter is the best medicine, and I am on my way to being a healer.
Recently I had a woman tell me that I pick up everything I do so quickly, and with such ease. I looked over my shoulder, because I assumed they were talking to someone else. The world has come full circle, and now I seem to be what I used dream of.
You know what I’ve learned? It’s not as easy as it looks. What looks like talent on stage is reflective of actual work. The hours I spend every day writing. The time I have spent watching, and re-watching every performance I’ve ever had, picking it apart and looking for ways to get better. Giving up what little spare time I have (I’m still a mom and wife first) to read comedy writing books and organize shows.
So, I guess what I’m trying to say about success, is that comparison is the root of all heartache. I wish someone would have helped me understand that a few decades ago. Maybe I would have stopped fighting my actual gifts and abilities, in favor of trying to be a cookie cutter version of what everyone else seemed to be. Besides, what may seem like effortless talent maybe be the product of arduous labor. When used correctly, you can easily confuse work ethic with natural talent. I also still have a long ways to go. Talent may open a door, but hard work is what gets you in the next room.
Instead of trying to be the next Kardashian, Jobs, Whoopi, or Prom Queen remember: They don’t have YOUR unique combination of skills and abilities. Trying to be like other people only ignores what YOU are good at. You can’t be an inspiration if you’re just a copy.
In the words of my favorite fictitious teacher: Take chances, get messy, make mistakes! Explore everything in the world, not just what’s cool. Find out what you’re good it. We all have a natural talent for something. When utilized correctly, that natural talent shines. And, working hard at what you’re meant to can sometimes feel like hardly working.
What are you good at?