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

Keep Feeding Your Brain – There’s Always Room For More

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

This will be a week of training for me. Two different topics, and it’ll take up nearly every moment of each workday until Friday. Then we get to catch up on everything else we missed during the week. Isn’t that the way it usually goes? It’s like taking vacation. You get a week off, but you spend a week getting caught up before you go and another week catching up when you get back. Fun.

Still, I’ll never forget the advice my dad gave me when I joined the Navy. Well, the advice I can share here, anyway. Some of the rest is a blur. But one day he told me to never turn down any class that was offered – get as much education as they were willing to give. That’s the one piece of Dad’s advice I followed, and I still follow it to this day. You can never learn too much.

Well, again, I guess that depends on the setting. My oldest daughter used to give a little more information than I cared for. Ignorance may not be bliss, but sometimes it beats the alternative. But when it comes to something I can use on the job, or that can get me closer to my dreams, I’ll take all I can get.

Best of all, most of my co-workers will be in town this week to join us. Most of our team is home-based in states I normally only pass through, so the only contact we have is a morning conference call and texting about work. It’s rare that we actually get to see one another.

There’s a lot more going on this week besides the training, including a quarterly meeting for our entire team. And we’ve mixed in some after-work activities as well. Nothing like getting together with some old friends for an evening of camaraderie (and drinks). Last time we went bowling. Suffice to say we won’t be doing that again. Hopefully ever.

I don’t think most of us actually look forward to sitting in a classroom all day, trying to take notes and keep up with the instructor while battling the effects of carbohydrate overload that comes from sampling too many donuts and bagels. Some days, there isn’t enough coffee in the world. In the Navy, they always told us to stand up if we got sleepy. I never sat down.

Still, there’s something about learning a new skill, even if you don’t think you’ll ever use it. Just to know some of the background workings of the systems we use is interesting, and sometimes helpful. Because when you know how a system is put together, you know its strengths and limitations. And when things break, it gives you a little background on what it may take to fix it.

Granted, there are times when we fill our head with so much information that it’s hard to see past the written facts. The Navy took a lot of time to teach us the inner workings of a transistor, from a purely theoretical perspective. To this day, I can’t tell you a thing about it, other than to rattle off some terminology that means nothing to me. All I needed to know was how to tell when it’s broke.

But, as with most other things, you can’t really tell if something’s working unless you know what it’s supposed to do. Unless you can define success, failure becomes a lot more ambiguous. That’s why we sometimes find ourselves running full speed ahead down the wrong path – we don’t have a clear idea of the intended outcome, so we just keep going and hope the goal will step into our path.

We don’t know anything without learning it first. Even things that seem obvious, like “don’t put your hand on a hot stove” had to be learned. And some of those lessons came the hard way. So, any time you can put yourself in a setting to learn something the easy way, take advantage of it. Your brain can absolutely handle the excess knowledge. And you never know when it may come in handy.

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

© 2019 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved