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Ever Tried To Do Something Well And Just Made Things Worse?

By Vicky O. Misa (First published Sept. 15, 2010)

I went through years trying to figure out what to do with my life. I knew there had to be more to it than just breathing in and out until I died. I needed to know if I had a purpose or if I was just wasting good air. After all, God has gone to the trouble of supplying me with gifts and talents (as He does with everyone) that I needed to discover and make use of. He showed me that I had something to offer and I decided to go back to school to learn how to use them. So here I was, a non-traditional student, beginning my college career at 32. Many people thought I had lost my mind, was wasting my time and money, and ignoring my family to chase pipe dreams. But I had finally understood that the aptitude I had for writing was no accident and I needed to give it my best shot. That wasn't hard for me because I'm kind of (OK, really) stubborn and I love a challenge. So when I became an editor for my college newspaper, I was terribly excited. I wanted to be the best at what I did, and I was determined to be awesome. Being the overachiever I am, I soon found myself overdoing it - trying to make up for lost time, I guess. In my enthusiasm, I blindly raced straight into the jungle, grabbed the tiger by the tail and proceeded to fly out of control. I dug into my beat, learning everything I could. I made countless contacts. I went after every story I heard anything about. I soon began to panic that I would miss a story. What if something important doesn't get covered? What if someone else scoops us? What if I don't get every source quoted? What if I don't catch every angle? What if, what if, what if? After being smacked and bruised by stress and fear, I landed in a heap wondering what in the world was up. I thought I was on the right track. Was this how it was supposed to be? I don't think so. I had no peace or joy about what I was doing. What I was doing wasn't so wrong as my attempt at making it all happen by myself and without experience. What I was doing was writing close to a dozen stories when I should have been writing a couple. I was asking lame questions to many, instead of vital questions to the few that mattered. I was covering a lot of generic junk instead of focusing on one or two significant stories that actually meant something to people. The problem wasn't a lack of effort, talent or training. I wasn't plagued by indifference or incompetence. I had simply spread myself too thin and had no experience to help me get through this uncharted territory. I had plenty of zeal and passion, but not enough wisdom to to make the best of it. What resulted was a newspaper full of mediocre stories that no one wanted to read and an exhausted me. I had been working myself to death over meaningless stuff. I felt awful that I was utterly failing exactly where I thought I was supposed to be excelling. Then I realized that it wasn't enough to just have the talent, or even to learn the basics of how to make it function in the world. You have to practice using it. Only then will you gain the real-world experience necessary to achieve what you want out of your gift. I imagine it must be something like wielding a sword for the first time. You sense that there's something special and right about it in your hands, an extension of yourself. This newly discovered asset is a piece of you that you hadn't realized before. You're enamored, curious; you feel like you need to know everything there is to know about it. You study it's shape, what it looks like. It feels heavy and awkward, but you are proud of this possession of yours. You realize its potential. After all, its possibilities lie within the uniqueness of you. It is only limited by your imagination. You want to make the most of it. You get the overwhelming sense that this tool must be used and used well. But simply knowing its dimensions, its color, its size isn't enough. To get the feel of it, you must take your first swing - only to find that you injure those closest to you, the ones standing by your side. That wasn't supposed to happen. How did this God-given gift become the author of such tragedy? OK, drama queen, let's back up for a minute. Mistakes happen, bad choices are made, and people suffer because of others. It's all par for the course. Though you are horrified by the damage you may have done (and it's certainly not a bad thing to be concerned), you can't become paralyzed by it. Many stop right there, never to gain any ground from that point on. Some straight-up refuse to attempt even that first swing for fear of 'maybe' messing up or all-out failing. Problem is, as feeble or messy as it is, there has to be a first try to get to the second, the third, etc. These steps have to be taken in order to master your talent so it can become what it was meant to be. You won't ever become effective, influential, encouraging, helpful or inspiring until you realize that the risks/mistakes are a necessary part of growth. These lessons known as failures are waiting for you to learn from them. They are opportunities to discover what doesn't work and chances to figure out how to do it better and get it right the next time. The only way you can really fail is to give up trying. (I can't count how many times I've read that somewhere. Obviously there's something to it.) Anyway, the point is, don't get overwrought when you feel like a monumental failure. Put things back into perspective and see that life is a learning process. You have the ability to figure out what went wrong and the chance to try it again. Don't be swayed by how things appear in any given moment, because often it is not as bad as we make it seem.

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