Who Made You The Expert???

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

I read a post yesterday from an acquaintance who excitedly announced she was now earning a full time living as a writer. I remember the feeling the first time somebody paid me to write. Okay, it was technical stuff – how to build an auto-chuck assembly for an electronic engraving machine, but from that day forward I could call myself a writer. Mom would have been proud.

When I first started creative writing, I wondered what qualifies a person to call themselves a writer. A few well-intended friends said, “If you write, you’re a writer!” Okay, so I’m a writer. I’m also a cook, a driver, a babysitter, and a trash-taker-outer, in case you were wondering. But what I learned is there are no real qualifications. You know, like running for public office.

Writing is a lot like stand-up comedy. You do it for free until somebody says, “Hey, I’ll give you a few bucks to do that again.” A “few bucks” being the key phrase. My first year as a comedian I made zero. Nada. Zilch. My second year I made $300. Woohoo!!!  By then, I’d logged a total of 36,000 miles doing shows for “exposure.” IRS sent me a letter saying don’t quit your day job.

I still remember when I got my first pay as a creative writer. I was being paid very well for the technical stuff – probably in the top 1% of technical writers in the nation. It was just me and that other guy. And then I got an assignment to write three articles for a magazine, offering advice on career choices for young men. I told them don’t even think of becoming a writer.

Since then, I’ve done a lot of freelance work. If you’ve ever taken the ASVAB test to join the military and wondered who wrote those stupid questions, the answer would be me. All told, I’ve written over 1500 questions for that test. It’s not necessarily the kind of gratifying work that gets you a ton of fan mail, but it sure does pay well. And I still can’t pass the test.

When I started writing humor, I submitted to newspapers across the nation. I got a lot of great responses. In fact, I made it to the final round of editorial consideration for a regular spot with a major syndicate. I could have made upwards of $30 a week! But that was at the very beginning of the newspaper decline, and nobody was buying humor. So, I gave it away for free.

A friend, who’s now a published author and regular columnist, once asked, “Do you ever feel like we’re just faking it?” Yes. All the time. Writing and stand-up comedy are a couple of those things you just pick up on your own. Sure, you can take classes or get a journalism degree. But that doesn’t make you a good writer. It takes passion, patience, and a really thick skin.

The same is true of a lot of things in life. You find something that captivates your interest and just do it. Maybe you get good enough to get paid, and maybe that pay is enough to live on. Thankfully, I never became a good enough plumber or mechanic to get paid. That was never my thing. But writing, speaking, and entertaining have always been my passion. So, here I am.

I see a lot of people who want to expand their horizons but think they don’t have the necessary qualifications to do it. To be fair, some things do require formal training. Brain surgery comes to mind, as well as flying, dispensing pharmaceuticals, and mixing explosives. It all depends on the consequences of mistakes. Never trust a chemist with one hand missing. I’m just saying.

But a lot of things can be learned on the job. It’s called, “Fake it till you make it.” The lack of recognized credentials doesn’t mean a thing. Most of the best-known authors don’t have a formal education in writing. Most of the highest-paid musicians learned on their own. And, according to TV, a fair number of actresses started out as waitresses in the Cheesecake Factory.

With the right amount of passion, there are few obstacles you can’t overcome. Whether it’s writing, performing, parenting, or running your own business, the skills you need can be learned. All it takes is passion – the desire to achieve a personal goal, and the determination to do whatever it takes to make it happen. If you’ve got that, you’ve got it all.

That’s it for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

You Don’t Have To Be Great – Just Good Enough

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off well.

Last night I gave a presentation to a group of aspiring entrepreneurs. I like talking. If you knew me well, you’d already know that. And I like talking about dreams, motivation, and success. You know what they say. Those who can, have – those who haven’t, teach. Well, something like that. In other words, fake it till you make it. I’ve done that several times in my life.

I remember when I first took a job as a technical writer. I’d been a writer in my previous job, but I wasn’t hired in that role. I just convinced the right people I could do it, so they sat me in front of a computer. It was that or let me keep working on the shop floor, and by then I’d shared all my secrets with younger technicians who didn’t cost as much. I never said I was smart.

When I started my new job, I was excited. I remember telling my wife that my career title had forever changed. No longer was I the technician who could also write – I was a professional writer! Two weeks later, when I realized they’d hired me to write software documentation, my excitement at a new job title turned to panic that they’d soon figure out I was just faking it.

A couple of months later, my manager called me into her office. I remember thinking, “Here it comes.” I looked around at my desk to see if I had more than one box-full of personal effects and made a mental note of who all would be there to witness my inevitable walk of shame.

As I sat down, my manager asked me to close the door. Not a good sign. Then she said, “I don’t want any of the other folks to hear this, but every project manager has been asking for you to be assigned to their team. They said you’re the best technical writer they’ve ever seen!” I remember thinking, “Who the hell have they been working with???” I still wonder.

For each of us, there comes a point where we realize we’re better than we thought. Maybe at one thing, maybe at several things. Turns out I’m pretty good at putting away cheeseburgers & fries, too. You play the hand you’re dealt. A friend, who at the time was a novice newspaper columnist, once asked me, “Do you ever feel like we’re just faking it?” Yes. All the time.

It’s one thing if you can hang a diploma on the wall and add a few random letters after your name. That’s a qualification. It means you’ve earned the right to do whatever it is you do. You’re a trained expert. So what? Nobody taught Eric Clapton to play a guitar and he doesn’t have a single diploma hanging on his wall. Just a bunch of gold records. What a phony!

As a writer, it’s pretty simple. If you can write something people want to read, you’re qualified. The same is true of comedians, musicians, speakers, and just about everything except surgeons and airline pilots. I pretty much insist on seeing their credentials. But a diploma doesn’t make you good at something, and if you’re good enough, a diploma doesn’t matter. It’s just a formality.

Now, if you read that as “forget the education and just go fake it,” you missed my point. What I’m saying is that we all have some natural talents that, with a little development, can put us on top of our game. Whether that’s in creative pursuits, or business, or almost anything, your success is based more on desire and confidence than any amount of formal education.

There are things in this world that require the formalities and certifications, and for good reason. But there are many, many more that don’t. If you have a genuine desire to excel and a bare minimum of natural talent, there’s not much you can’t do.

I’ll never be a great singer. My choir director will back me up on that. But there are lots of other things I can do as well as anybody else, and so can you. Don’t let the lack of credentials or experience stop you from pursuing your goals. For every successful endeavor, somebody with no experience did it first. Everybody else is just imitating their success. Why not you?

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

What Do You Want to Be Good At?

Good morning, and happy Monday! I hope you all had a fantastic weekend.

I spent a good part of mine doing my taxes. It’s a necessary evil that could be made a lot simpler with technology, but that’s not the case. I was pleasantly surprised to find the main form (1040) much shorter than it used to be. But that was just an illusion, because additional forms have been added this year. So, what used to be on one form is now on several. That’s what I call progress.

And it’s also what I call a perfect opportunity for an accountant to earn some of my money next year. I remember the last time I replaced a front spindle on my truck, I told my wife that would be the last time. My days of climbing under a car are over. And the same is true of taxes. There’s a reason other people get paid to do this. And I’m about to find out.

I’ve always been proud of the fact that I’m willing to tackle just about any task. Okay, maybe even a little smug. I learned to work on cars because a basic set of tools is cheaper than a mechanic, and you can use the tools over and over again. I stuck my toe in the water with some oil changes and odd jobs like that. Then I rebuilt my first engine. It ran for almost a year after that. I’m just sayin’.

In that case, all of the repairs I did were done correctly. I just stopped short of removing the crankshaft to check for wear and, as it turned out, I should have kept going. So, you learn. But once again, I still remember the moment I decided that car had finally gotten the better of me. As oil poured from the top of the engine, I said those famous words … “That’s it! I’ve had enough!”

Well, you can add taxes to the growing list of things Dave won’t do again. Once upon a time, writing the checks was the hardest part. But there’s a reason judges don’t recommend that people represent themselves in court. There’s a reason airlines make us sit in the back of the plane. And there’s a reason hospitals won’t let you remove your own gall bladder.

There’s no job in the world that any of us couldn’t learn. It’s been said that we use roughly 3-4% of our mental capacity on a given day. That leaves a lot of brain power for learning new stuff. But learning it is one thing – getting good at it is another matter completely. That takes time, practice, and lots of experience making the same mistakes the rest of us would make.

I read something yesterday that said the only difference between the master and the student is that the master has failed more times than the student has tried. You could apply that same statement to the principles of success and say the difference between success and failure is the successful person has failed more times than the unsuccessful person will ever try.

As we learn new skills, mistakes are inevitable. In the pursuit of success, we will fail a lot. The difference is, failure is only temporary until we accept it as a way of life. Successful people just never made that choice. They have a goal that’s more powerful than any obstacle life can place in their way. And they glide over it like an Olympic hurdler. They make it look easy.

You look at them and think, “That person could go into a septic tank and come out with a pot of gold.” And, to a degree, that’s true. But it’s not a special skill they were born with. It’s simply the burning desire to find that pot of gold, no matter what. The reason they’re so good at it is because they’ve done it so many times.

There will be things in your life that are better left to the “experts.” You could learn to do any one of them, and if you put in the time to build those skills, you could be really good at them. The trick is deciding what you want to be good at, and what you’re willing to leave to somebody else.

As you drive past stately homes in “that” part of town, or see people getting on a plane for exotic locations you’ve only dreamed about, ask yourself a simple question – is this something I’m willing to leave to the experts, or is this something I want to take the time to learn? The answer to that question will shape the rest of your life.

Success isn’t a skill – it’s a choice. None of us can be great at everything, so be great at the things that matter to you most. And, once you’ve made that commitment, don’t let anything stand in your way.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved