Personal Essays

Things I Am Bad At

It’s always good once in awhile to sit down with yourself and acknowledge the things in your life that need improvement.

This isn’t pessimism. In fact, to look at your faults and consider how they may be improved is a pretty optimistic behaviour.

Two things I struggle with:

1) Saving Money

That is to say, I’m great at spending it. Especially if I can argue it’s for educational or career purposes.  I’m great at justifying the noble ambition as worth the cost. I’m capable of throwing it on my credit card and dealing with it later.

Hint: This is a really bad habit.

This might work if you’re a CEO swimming in more money than Scrooge McDuck, but if you’re a graduate in your early 20s with not a lot of extra cash (see: me), then this is not such a great strategy.

The goal is to always pay down my credit card down to zero dollars at the end of each month, and I don’t. The exception is my AMEX (which I don’t use very much), which I pay down because their interest rates strike the fear of god into me.

Yes, education is important.

Yes, sometimes it sucks to be middle class.

You can appreciate all the opportunities that middle class DOES afford you, and at the same time that doesn’t make it any easier to watch your cohorts with more money take advantage of opportunities that you can’t afford to.

The only way to survive (short of winning the lottery) is to suck it up and be responsible with your cashflow.

I’d like to not be as tempted by shiny stuff that belongs on the hedonic treadmill.

It’s really hard.

As a coping mechanism, I’ve found it helpful to remind myself daily that the quality of content I produce is 99% to do with me, and 1% to do with my tools.

I also remind myself that the happiness and satisfaction I get out of work is 99.99% to do with the quality, effort and thought that I put into it, and has almost nothing to do with my tools.

There’s also that Edison quote:

“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine per cent perspiration. Accordingly, a ‘genius’ is often merely a talented person who has done all of his or her homework.” – Thomas Edison

It’s true that working with premium tools can make your job easier/less time-consuming/less frustrating/more refined, but most of the time if you stick with the tools you have, and are patient, you can produce content that is just as good (if not better) as if you were using the latest and greatest whatever.

Too often, we mistake technology for progress. Sometimes the new, shiny ‘tools’ we’re told we need to excel in our field are just distractions.

And why are those distractions there? Because capitalism. It’s not a bad system, but it’s a beast that needs to be fed.

Two examples of photographers who succeeded without fancy gear are Kevin Russ (for his iPhone photography), and Miss Aniela, (started out on Flickr with a point and shoot camera).

Both are now very successful within their niches.

So you know what? Maybe you don’t need to go to Cuba to write that first-person narrative fiction. Maybe you just need to go visit the library, and do some hardcore Googling.

2) Too Much Planning & Not Enough Doing

I love coming up with ideas.  What will it be like?  What will I feel like?  How will this impact x, y, z?  Oh my god, how cool would this be?

The onus is the followup.

Great idea. Are you going to actually make it happen?

A lot of the time I need to shake myself out of my head and remember that I need to go out and do things in the real world, where the impact of my actions can effect people.

Maybe I’m thinking about: a photoshoot, practicing a new music piece, a blog post, a story idea, an investigative piece, an act of kindness, exercise, whatever.

If left unfulfilled, all the great ideas you have will effect no one. If left unfulfilled, the ideas in your head are like a shiny mobile spinning above a crib. They may keep you entertained, but they’re essentially useless.

The great part is: going out and doing something usually makes you feel way better than just keeping your ideas to yourself.

TL;DR: Ideas are cheap. Action is measurable. People can only judge you by what you do. Go do stuff.

I wrestle with these problems all the time.

Sometimes I win and go do awesome stuff. Sometimes I loose and feel like a gigantic failure.

The more conscious I am of these habits, the more often I find myself able to head them off at the pass before they can negatively affect me.

The more often I can do that, the more often I find myself winning.

And here’s the trick:

The hardest part is to be able to tell yourself, “I have a problem with X, Y, Z” WITHOUT feeling guilty about it.

That damn guilt.

I tell you: It’ll get in the way of success more than your problems themselves.

Guilt destroys focus.

Two people are climbing up the same mountain: One is wracked with guilt that they have to climb the mountain in the first place; the other has their eye fixed on the summit.

Who you do think is going to do a better job?

It’s refreshing to be honest with yourself, and there’s no denying the mountain.

Get rid of fault and blame and “Why does it have to be like this?” and you’ll be that much quicker to reach the summit.

One way to figure out your issues is to examine their motivations:

Why am I doing this?  Is this is a crutch for something else in my life? Is this just a bd habit?  Do I like being a person who does this?

If you can’t or don’t take control of your habits (good and bad), they can interfere with your goals without you even realizing it.

Problems can change too.

The things I’m dealing with now may not be the same as what I’m dealing with in five years.

Life is a slow game of whack-a-mole.

As you gain control over one aspect, another crisis will pop up. That’s life being a complex system.

The good news: If you practice (and it does require a conscious effort) then the longer you play, the better you get.

The big thing is don’t keep score with yourself as you go through life.

You always hear ‘don’t keep score’ as good relationship advice. You have to foster your relationship with yourself the same way you’d foster it with another person.

Surround yourself with good people.

Talk to people about your problems.

Take time for self-reflection.

If your problems have gotten to a point where you don’t feel you can control them anymore, then seek help. Either from family and friends, or from health professionals.

Mess up. Win. Lose. Fail miserably. Kill it.

Enjoy it all, and make sure you’re not a victim of your habits. Make your habits work for you.  Their undertow will drag you down the river of life, so grab the paddle and start steering instead.

ps. I’m also really bad for ripping my fingernails. This is possibly my ultimate battle. And, after reading this my boyfriend would like to point out that my greatest flaw is actually my loud chewing. Point taken.

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2 Comments

  • Reply
    Kaleigh
    October 8, 2015 at 11:18 am

    Another favourite. This one stands out for me in terms of good writing, rhetoric and flow and also just the nice message (and the kick in the pants I needs haha)

    • Reply
      Mel Hattie
      October 8, 2015 at 6:00 pm

      Thanks Kaleigh! You know what’s funny? I started re-reading this post after I saw your comment and immediately thought: “Ugh, I can write better than that!” and I went back and re-edited the whole thing. Didn’t change the message, but I think it flows better and is more readable now. Take a look and let me know!

What do you think?

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