“Use what talents you possess, the woods will be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best” – Henry van Dyke
Believing that everything happens for a reason and that God has placed each and every one of us on Earth for a purpose can sometimes feel like the ultimate pressure to make a name for ourselves and prove to others exactly what we can do. It also means that we sometimes take it upon ourselves to try and be the best at everything, spreading ourselves across various aspects of our lives far too thinly and as a result, forfeiting our ability to actually do our best. What’s important is working on improving your strengths to maximum ability, as opposed to working on a weakness until you’re just average at it.
I feel so strongly about encouraging the people around me to pursue everything that interests them and whatever they believe they can achieve, and seeing what comes of it. A teacher from my high school, someone I still consider myself somewhat blessed to be taught by because they were such an inspirational person, continuously taught myself and my classmates to try absolutely everything within our means that we know ourselves to be capable of.
Coincidentally, this was the same teacher that inspired me to start writing and is also a large reason as to why I now feel able to share the things I’ve written. Beginning a blog and creating a space for me to publish my work has been something I’ve wanted to do for years but I’ve always been put off because of the belief that my work doesn’t stand a chance against everyone else’s. Even more so because I personally know so many already amazing writers that publish content or have their own blogs and it’s something that has been done so many times before.
That’s where the quote above, by Henry van Dyke, has stepped in and continuously reminds me that the world would be a really different, really boring place if everyone was reluctant to do something they want to do just because it has already been done. Imagine if the world was exposed to only a limited amount of authors or singers, for example, just because they had ‘talent’ and therefore no one else could try. I realised that I know I can write, through feedback from friends and family, support from those senior to me and the fact that I always seem to write essays better than I can take exams. More than anything, I enjoy it, so why shouldn’t I contribute?
One of my favourite role models, business woman Karren Brady, lists ‘Take a reality check’ as one of her rules for success and I couldn’t agree more. Over time, through making choices such as my first job, what A-Levels to study, which university to go to and what to study, I was constantly having to really think about myself and what consequences these decisions would have. I learnt that there are two really important things to remember when making big decisions about your life and future.
The first is playing to your strengths. I can’t stress how important it is that you regularly take a step back and assess what it is that you’re good at, whether it’s an academic strength, a talent or a skill. This is what you need to work on at improving and eventually use, whether it be the focus of your career or just a hobby.
The second thing to remember is that you need to enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. Of course you have to make smart decisions that will benefit your future, but at the same time there is nothing worse than being stuck studying or working somewhere you hate or doing something that you have no interest in. Again, using Karren Brady’s words, “Nothing is work unless you’d rather be doing something else”. So whether it’s the university you’re choosing to go to or the career you’re heading towards, make sure you won’t wish you had chosen another option.
The advice I want to share in this post really isn’t about finding ‘something you can do’ and sticking to it, advice that teachers and supposed ‘role models’ often encourage my generation to do. To me, this is just setting yourself up for a monotonous life with no room for challenges or personal growth. Rather, it’s finding what you’re good at and what you enjoy that is the key to making a successful contribution, no matter who else is already doing it.
Unsurprisingly, this has been proved time and time again! I’m blessed to have some really great friends that are (again, really great) academics, bloggers, event planners, DJ’s, singers, own their own brands and have started their own businesses. If these people hadn’t pursued what they wanted to do or the thing that they’re really good at, just because someone else was already doing it, the world would really be missing out.
Make your contribution and make it worthwhile.