Every day, I feel doubt at the back of my mind. No matter how many times anyone reassures me my skills are improving, I did a good job or have any sort of talent; I take the compliment and still mull over how I did not do my best and how I could do more.
Some people say this is unhealthy. I agree: if you spend your whole life doubting everything you do, you’ll never enjoy anything.
Yet, it seems this doubt is almost necessary. That without the little voice pushing me to get better, I never would.
My life, when I wrote this, felts like I was rushing to everything. Between full-time work and a full school credit load, there was barely enough time for me to raise my head and breathe. I had to sacrifice TV, video games, and even sleep to be able to keep juggling between it all.
After a difficult conversation with my wife, I chose to quit college. It doesn’t feel like much has changed, but between you and me, I wish I hadn’t signed up at all.
Yet, if I hadn’t tried for those few months, I may never have grasped the conviction that college wasn’t for me.
There’s no shortage of online articles on productivity, sleep, healthy living, and other well-meaning narratives about how to balance — or choose — the lives we want based on what we can handle.
When I started seriously pushing myself, there were days I couldn’t wait for the day to end so I can crash. There were mornings I had to drag myself out of bed and pour water on my face to stay awake.
When I started running, my body would be sore all week and I would start talking myself out of it. When I made my first vlog, I shivered with the fear of filming out of my comfort zone.
Who do I think I am? No one would even notice. Plus, I am not even trying to compete for anything. Why bother?
This doubt appears whenever I face a situation where on one hand, there’s an easy path: sleep in, eat the cookie, take the free pizza at work, push for time-off because of my cough. On the other hand, maintain my fast, wake up, and use the quiet time to write or do my school work, take the apple instead.
This was not always the case. And even now, when I slip and take the path of least resistance, it’s not as often as it used to be.
My identity is entrenched in the habit of getting back on track and staying longer than the last time.
You can change. You can grow. You can transform yourself into the kind of person you never believed you could be: showing up early, eating healthy, exercising, reading multiple books per month, working on your side-hustle.
I know this because only one month ago, I was deep in the doubt of it all. Even now, every single piece I publish here on Medium is my push to become the writer I know myself to be.
How Do You Get Back From A Writing Slump?
Let’s start with why you took a break: you fell sick and could not hunch over a keyboard. Your hands were so frail and…
I don’t like how my words come out on the page. I still see the gap between my current abilities and where I could be. Even the ideas I write about are still lacking in my truth — my core.
When that conversation starts in my head, doubt pours in and I’m tempted to stop; to study and then come back to write.
This never works. I have to push through.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
― Ira Glass
If you want to be better at something, you will have to be okay with sucking for a long time. You will have to jump and swim.
This is not just limited to skills either. With relationships, you can go to therapy all you want, read all the love languages on earth, master diplomacy, but in the end, you will have to face the fact that you will only improve on the field.
All theory and no reality makes Sally angry.
When the doubt comes in — resistance wrapped in fear and mocking your attempts — you have to flip it on its head to ask an innocuous question:
What would happen if you pushed a little further?
It’s not about waking up tomorrow at 4.00 am. It’s about waking up earlier than yesterday. It’s about knowing what you will do when you wake up. It’s about sleeping earlier.
It’s not about running 20 miles tomorrow. It’s about running half a mile, then 2 next week, then 10 down the road.
“You have to build calluses on your brain just like how you build calluses on your hands. Callus your mind through pain and suffering.” — David Goggins
Wherever you are right now, I know you can push a little further. I didn’t believe it until I tried. Until I could. 6 months ago I could not drive a car. Then, I was able to drive to work and back each day. I even got my baptism of fire with a car accident.
8 months ago, I was unemployed — now I have two raises and an employee of the month under my belt. I'm even lucky enough to still be able to work in social isolation during such a terrible global stressor.
These small steps, moving in the direction of what I previously thought was possible made me resonate with an even stronger question:
What would it take for me to never need a job?
1% every day, like James Altucher loves to say, compounds.
If you’re like me, you look at who you are, and who you could be — the gap is just too huge and discouraging.
Close your eyes, look at where you are right now: focus on moving the needle just a little — every day.
You will lose some. You will win some. Ultimately, a year from now, you would have grown exponentially into the kind of person who now recognizes that voice of doubt and flips it each time. 5 years from now? Even more.
“Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.” — Bill Gates
The voice will become a way for you to measure where you need to increase action, as it should be.
Listen to the doubt. Lean in — flip it and push further.
You’ll be proud of yourself and you won’t need anyone to give you accolades because you know where it all happened.
You’ll realize that the doubt will never leave. You work with it to grow. You’ll also accept that your growth never ends. That your life can go in any direction you choose to take it. That you are in control of so much more.
You’ve always been in control. Now it’s time to act like it. Ask yourself:
What would happen if you pushed a little further?
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