The Long, Hard Road: Mastering Skills Isn’t Meant To Be Easy

 

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Mastering skills is something I’ve never felt I was good at. It doesn’t matter what the skill was, I just wasn’t one to get it. You see, it took me way longer than I care to admit for me to learn that anything really worth doing wasn’t going to be easy.

Back in the day, I wanted to do great things, but I rarely put forth the effort to accomplish them, mostly because I got sick of it pretty quickly. Why? Because I wasn’t an instant grandmaster.

In truth, though, I haven’t much gotten past that despite intellectually knowing better.

Take right now, for instance.
 

At the moment, I have a ton of things I want to do and I want to accomplish, but the fact that I can’t make them happen right freaking now is driving me up the wall. These are things I feel like I need to do, but circumstances are keeping me from doing much of anything about them.

This is frustrating. It’s easy to step up and just say screw it and walk away forever.

I know, I’ve done that.

For example, did you know I used to paint? I don’t mean like painting houses, but I mean artistically? Yeah, I really did.

I tried it, sucked at it, got frustrated, then walked away from it with every intention of doing it again and never have. More than that, though, I don’t really feel like I’m missing out all that much, so apparently, the drive wasn’t all that great.

I’ve given woodworking a try, too, and that went about the same way the first time or two. I’m still working on it, though.

There are a ton of things I’ve tried and just given up in frustration, not because I didn’t enjoy them in and of themselves, but because I was angry I sucked at it.

See, there’s nothing wrong with walking away from something you just don’t like. Not to get all Marie Kondo on you here, but if it doesn’t bring you some measure of joy, why are you even bothering with it?

That’s different if it’s a work thing, mind you, but for your enjoyment or enrichment? Putting yourself through something you don’t derive some measure of enjoyment from is insane.

But on the same token, maybe the act itself sucks but you enjoy the outcome. Perhaps you don’t really like painting stuff, but you do like the compliments you get when your guests comment over the artwork and you tell them you painted it yourself.

If that’s the case, well…well, I’m not sure what to say, but at least you’re getting some joy out of the act.

The problem is understanding that the long, hard road to mastery does include frustration. The trick, one I still haven’t figured out, is to find joy in what you’re doing despite that frustration.

That’s true of anything.

It’s funny because there are times when we all have gotten good at things and not really even noticed that frustration. Not with regard to our skill, anyway. For example, I never noticed it with regard to my writing, yet this is something I make a living from. A fairly decent one, too. After all, I’m supporting a family of four on it.

Anyway, it happens.

The important thing, something I’m constantly struggling with, is remembering that the long, hard road is hard for a reason. It’s hard because there’s no value in the easily obtained.

The piece of gum you can get for pocket change isn’t valuable. Not to an adult, anyway, you understand how easy it is to get such a piece of candy. Even homeless people can often obtain such things, for crying out loud.

As you go up in price, we see value in the thing tending to go up.

It’s not because of money, necessarily, but in ease of obtaining the said thing. If you make enough to buy a Ford Mustang in an hour, then it’s likely such a car isn’t particularly valuable to you.

But, on the same token, if it takes you years to strive and obtain that vehicle, it’s worth far more to you.

This is especially true in things that matter more than material possessions. Skills that are easily obtained aren’t particularly valuable. I can’t tell you how many people tell me they wish they could write for a living as I do.

They’ve spent years working toward that goal and here I am having just sort of stumbled on it.

Except, I didn’t. 

You see, I’ve been writing every day for a decade. I spent seven years cranking out blog post after blog post, thousands of words per day, all for free before anyone was ever willing to pay me for it.

Then, when they did, I didn’t get a whole lot of money for the work I put out. I really needed another job just to have a shot in hell.

In other words, I paid my dues without realizing I was paying my dues. To me, the writing was easy, but it was necessary. The long, hard road was there. I “mastered” my skills through hard effort.

A while back, I looked at some of my earlier blog posts and cringed. Back then, I was just bad. Very bad.

Yet now I support my family because the long, hard road was valuable. I earned it.

I’m not here to brag, though. I’ve failed at so many other things it’s not even funny. I tried and failed at so many hobbies, so many pastimes, that I cringe worse than I do rereading my early work.

If you don’t want to do that, my suggestion? Stop quitting because you’re not good at something. Learn. Get better. Own that stuff.

Do it. Own it.

Regrets hurt, so do everything in your power to not have them.

Author: Tom

Tom is a husband, father, novelist, opinion writer, and former Navy Corpsman currently living in Georgia. He's also someone who has lost almost 60 pounds in a safe, sustainable way, so he knows what he's talking about.

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