I’m Not as Great as I Think I Am

Recently Dove did a study that showed men think they are better looking than they actually are, but a similar study was done in 2010 and before that in 2009. I probably think I’m better looking than I actually am, but what I’m more concerned with recently is that I may think I’m better than I actually am.

For the last year and a half I’ve had this inflated notion that I’m ‘more than just an IT and web guy’. “I’m a high-level thinker!” I’d say to myself. “I think at a systems level. I can synergize data. I can run a big company. It’s easy for me to make money. I can do anything.” The problem was that while I was busy thinking about better ways to run a company or businesses I could start, I wasn’t really doing anything. I was really just running my mouth.

Work is Hard

The moment I was forced to do some of the things I was claiming I was ‘so good at’ I found the tasks extremely hard to do. Solving big problems is not easy. Setting up an ecommerce site is not easy. Going to work everyday is not easy. I had to get over my dream of doing nothing and realize that I’d always be doing something – and so I had to get better at whatever it was I was doing.

What I was doing was IT work, web design, and online marketing/SEO. But because I had spent all of my free time thinking of new business ventures, reading about startups, or hanging out with friends, I wasn’t spending any amount of time becoming a better IT guy, learning more about web design techniques, or discovering new SEO and online marketing strategies.

To be fair, I was learning new things about marketing. I recently learned about things like market sophistication, multivariate testing, and content marketing. I was able to apply this new knowledge to clients who needed to use market segmentation to create separate marketing campaigns for different target markets. It also came in handy while writing the marketing strategy for a business plan for one of my customers.

But there is a lot more I could be doing. I wrote a post on Google Authorship Markup Validation in 2011, but I’ve yet to get it working on my site. My voicemail message still says my old company name and my Gravatar still reflects the old logo. I’m still trying to figure out video and I’ve yet to start an ecommerce store (one of my goals in 2013). However I did start an Amazon Web Store (Amazon’s eCommerce platform) yesterday to try it out. I was looking for something that would let me easily add products and I’ve found that finding suppliers is one of the hardest parts of setting up an ecommerce site. So far I’m not thrilled with it. Why? Because it’s hard.

Seeking Out Easy

James Altucher recently wrote, Why Do Anything? In it he writes about how he likes, “to submerge myself completely in water and just float for as long as I can hold my breath.” I used to do this. It was my favorite thing to do when I was on the swim team in high school. As soon as school got out I would race down to the locker room, get changed, and submerge myself in the diving well. I didn’t weigh very much then so I’d sink down about 10 feet until I reached an equilibrium and I’d just hover there, weightless and silent. Nothing could hurt me and all was right with the world – all but my lack of oxygen. I try to recreate this feeling when I’m in the shower, but it’s not the same. That’s the only thing I miss about high school.

In August of 2012, a little over a year after I first quit my job, I wrote a short post called Always Working. It was the first time I realized that I had a feeling where “I just have to work until [x]” happens. Later I had a dream about a hill behind my house. It was a place I had gone many times before and I knew it very well. There were trails, a playground, a parking lot, and a place to buy candy – all at the top of the hill. The only thing was the hill doesn’t exist in real life. It never did.

It was clear my perception of work needed to change.

Recently a friend texted me with the stark realization that he still has 30 more years of work ahead of him. I don’t know. It’s all about your mindset (what people used to call your attitude). To me, work is part of life – and you’re always going to be working – even when you’re not technically working. It’s great if you can do something you love, but it’s better to be better at what you’re doing. Be the best that you can be and things will get better. If you’re a farmer, be the best farmer. If you’re an accountant, be the best accountant. If you’re a writer, be the best writer. If you’re not the best, practice “deliberate practice” in order to get better. This is what great people do. If you want to be great, you have to try to be great – not just think you are great. No one becomes great by doing nothing. There is no hill in your backyard. You cannot float forever. You have to come up for air.

Slowly I Turned…Step By Step…Inch By Inch

Seth Godin recently wrote an article for Fast Company about how to build a company slowly and one line stuck out to me and it’s one that I’ll end with:

Sometimes the best way to be great at something is simply to become better and better at that thing, rather than hoping one or three bold and brilliant choices will reap a windfall.