No One is a Natural: You Gotta Put in Work

There seems to be this common misconception that if you float-along, for long enough, eventually you will stumble face-first into something that will fully capture your interest... and become your passion. However, speaking purely autobiographically, I have found this to not really be the case.

I think a basis for this idea of "spontaneous passion finding" comes from the mindset that people have genetic dispositions to be good at certain things. This logic goes something like: "Each of us has a specific activity or calling that we are meant to do and, once found, we will naturally excel at it". However, when we look at the success stories of the greats, this idea quickly crumbles.

A beautiful book that addresses the absurdity of this idea is Talent is Overrated. In this book author Geoffrey Colvin uses Bill Gates as an example, explaining that he obviously was not born with the computer "gene", rather, he found himself in a unique situation that offered him a various set of unique opportunities (growing up down the street from one of the first public computer labs--for example), and he took advantage.

I personally subscribe to this "make-lemonade-with-your-lemons" train of thought, and more specifically, the fact that Bill Gates--had his hand been dealt differently--could have just as easily became passionate and successful in the world of medicine (or rock climbing).

Now this understanding of how passion, interests, and success manifests itself in humans is simultaneously motivating and daunting. On the positive side, it means that just like we have been told since we were little kids, we really can do anything if we put our minds to it! On the other hand, it also crumbles the easiest cop out available, by making it erroneous to blame our lack of "natural" skill on our lack of success in a specific field.

The fact of the matter is:

Were all dealt different hands, and we can use our unique combination of circumstances to create something beautiful for ourselves. Just remember, in the game of life, none is dealt a royal flush. The people around you who may seem like they have the game beat, well, they put in work. And if you want to make something of your hand, you gotta do the same

Once you realize that, the age old, "Yeah, but he's a natural" excuse begins to look really silly.


Two Types of Journaling

A lot of people may be familiar with the many benefits of journaling. It can help work through mental barriers, organize your thoughts, discuss the days success, and plan for future goals. However, with my own journaling I have noticed there seems to be two distinct types of writing that I do:

Reflective & Creative

Now reflective tends to be more of a listing of facts, while creating tends to be more of a recording of my actual thoughts regarding the facts, and often times unfolds into new formations of ideas as I write.

There is certainly pros and cons to both, with the former being good for recording details and need-to-remember information. While the latter tends to be a better way to let your thoughts flow freely onto the paper... often times a bit nonsensically and not in chronological order.

Personally I have found creative journaling to be preferable when it comes to personal journaling, and also more constructive when I'm using my writing as a means of problem solving, or a way to see something from a new perspective.

With that being said I still struggle to avoid the reflective fact-listing style that I grew up using, especially when I am distracted or in a time restraint. One helpful thing I have found is writing as if the audience (perceived audience- doesn't actually have to be a real person) isn’t looking for a recount of objective daily activities and instead focusing on putting into words the things that were consuming my thoughts for that day…

“Been spending a lot of the day stressing about my genetics class…what if I fail?”

Is much more constructive and more interesting to look back on than...

“Went to library. Studied for genetics. Went home, watched movie with roommate”

Talk It Out

There seems to be this commonly held misconception that the power of the spoken word is something that is only meant to be used when there is an audience present. We all recognize how much it helps to verbalize ideas and talk things out, we just reserve this problem solving method for times when there is someone around to listen.

 Note: Hats have been added per suggestion of my girlfriend who had difficulties keeping track of who's who.

Note: Hats have been added per suggestion of my girlfriend who had difficulties keeping track of who's who.

However... autobiographically-speaking-based-on-no-scientific-research I have found that when it comes to talking, similar to the  written word, an audience is not really required to tap into the task's powerful potential.

Now, often times, an audience does help to ignite and nudge detail and creativity, but in many cases it is the audience allowing us to feel comfortable vocalizing, and not necessarily their contribution, that we benefit from.

 Note: Hats have been added per suggestion of my girlfriend who had difficulties keeping track of who's who.

Note: Hats have been added per suggestion of my girlfriend who had difficulties keeping track of who's who.

Now the idea is that there are two general types of writing: fact listing and creating.

Creating can have an array of beneficial effects on our problem solving abilities, which is why many people choose to journal by writing “Dear Diary." This process creates an audience to write to, which helps encourage the creation process and not just regurgitation or fact listing.

This idea can be applied very similarly to the spoken word.

We've all seen examples of this in our daily lives. Often times though- for me anyway- I fail to recognize what is really happening. For instance...

Ever find yourself mid way through a conversation with a close friend, regarding something you had been thinking a lot about recently, only to find that you're presenting the idea in way that you hadn’t thought of before?

This fluid like flow of novel idea forming that often occurs simultaneously while you talk is a very potentially powerful resource. The conversation many times will end with a new light cast on the situation you had been mulling over in your head for weeks, a new found comfort toward a recent source of worry, or acceptance of a past event… despite the fact that the person you were talking "with" may have hardly said a word.

Or maybe halfway through a journal entry you notice your writing slowly shifts, from a regurgitation of facts, toward a more unique origin, folding and unfolding different understandings and slowly rotating the view you have on that moment’s topic of interest.

What name can be given to this intangible spark that seems to occur in these types of instances?

Is it just the fact that your friend is offering you perfect direction on your recent contemplative quest?

Is it some mystical force that spawns from a purposed pen touching a piece of blank paper?

What I am suggesting, is that their is a very unique benefit that comes from tangibilizing your thoughts, weather it be via writing or talking. And that by taking that simple step past thinking something in your head, and putting it into existence, the brain starts to problem solve and dissect situations in different ways…where there was once a possible block or cause of anxiousness, you may find obvious resolve.

These methods, as a tool to get over blocks, are not a new technique either, we’ve all heard the common psychologist suggestion of writing a letter to someone and never sending it.

The ironic thing is: the simultaneous lionizing of journaling to yourself and the bastardizing of talking to yourself- viewing the former as a powerful tool for self improvement and the latter as the habit of the mentally ill.

But is it really so crazy to think that it’s the verbalization of thoughts that helps you hurdle mental barriers, and that this action doesn't actually require the presence of another person?

After all…how many words does your friend really even say when you find yourself discussing an emotionally charged topic about your life?

Alright, I promise I'm about done, but before I go, let me make one suggestion:

TALK IT OUT... with yourself

Most of us are at least familiar, even if you don't personally practice, with written methods of this idea, such as journaling.

However, I strongly encourage you to set down the pen from time to time and try verbalizing ideas with yourself. It can be a unique way to hash out an idea, while also giving practice to potentially help you become a better public speaker. I especially find this ideal when driving in the car, I think this comes a bit more natural because when we drive with a passenger we talk toward the windshield anyway. If it seems uncomfortable at first, you can try the voicemail trick (I mean... leaving a voicemail is basically talking to yourself, right?). 

Now maybe this process will help you achieve world domination, maybe you'll just decide I'm a weirdo. Whatever the case, what do you really have to lose?

Talk about your day...

Talk about your worries...

Reminisce a memory...

Just talk it out...