Friday, 6 February 2009

Living for a Challenge

A lot of people know whether they are the sort of person that pushes themselves or if they just coast through life. I’m never sure which is better. For interview speak, once you’re sitting in front of an interviewer, I think everyone is someone that likes a challenge and is constantly pushing themselves because we’re told that’s what employers want from us, but some people just aren’t like that. I’m not too sure which is better either. On the one hand, you have someone that’s driving forward and attempting persistent innovation and are constantly on their toes, yet on the other, you have someone that knows their limits and capabilities and will reliably stick to them. The latter obviously sounds a lot more boring, but the problem with innovation and attempting new things is that there is an inherent risk attached to that.

I find I regularly challenge myself and hate just coasting along, but sometimes I end up crippling myself in the process. The challenges I give myself aren’t always reasonable, are frequently things I know I can’t do, and even when they are things I know I can do, I also know that I can’t do them well. It’s fine to say that you want to improve yourself and develop skills or learn new things, but there are some things that we as individuals just aren’t good at and we all naturally have a feel for our own strengths and weaknesses. As an example, I have spent a long time working on various comics, even though I’m not a natural artist. Admittedly, I’m a lot better at it than I was, but I’ll never have quite the same flare that my contemporaries in the same field will have. I seem to deliberately try and do things that I just have very little aptitude for.

I think an intelligent person would challenge themselves in an area that they could truly excel in. Any expert in any field of expertise is probably a person that pushes themselves and at the same time has identified an area that they have a certain amount of natural ability in. I was always criticised when I was younger that I was running the risk of becoming a “jack of all trades and master of none”, and whereas I still prefer the idea of being jack of all trades, I am starting to see how people become true masters.

I’ve mentioned before that people definitely have different levels of tolerance when it comes to failure and the trial and error approach to learning, especially when it starts with a lot of error. I am often very stubborn and don’t give up easily, but I do still get despondent and disillusioned if I don’t make the progress I want to, especially if it’s something I think I should be good at, or assumed I’d already be able to do. For this reason I sometimes suspect that I may be more of a coaster than I would think and again, I’m still not sure which is better. I think in my next interview I will describe myself as reliable and consistent with moments of flare and creativity, because maybe that’s the closest to the truth.

There’s a fantastic line from the Simpsons where Lisa is asked “but I thought you wanted a challenge?” and she replies by saying “Yes, but a challenge I can do!” and I think that’s how I tend to live my life, only occasionally not accurately assessing what I can and can not do.

Additional Notes:

The problem with innovation and attempting new things is that there is an inherent risk attached to that. Anyone that has seen Dragon’s Den will have a better idea of what I mean. Sometimes there’s a very good reason for why something hasn’t been done before.

I’m not trying to make excuses for not being a world class anything. It would be nice to say “I could be amazing, but I’m just not that kind of person” and for people to believe it, but I acknowledge that my general disposition is not the reason for me excelling in any one particular area, that would probably be due to my short sharp bursts of laziness and procrastination. I think my motto for a long time was “Procrastinate now”.

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