Why You Aren’t Born Great – And Why That’s Okay

Why You Aren't Born Great - And Why That's Okay

Nobody is born great.

We all start off as equals: tiny infants who can’t do much on their own.  Forget about beautiful paintings, elegant singing and persuasive writing that sells itself; we can’t even smile yet!

Later on in life, we often get frustrated with ourselves when we’re first trying to learn a new skill. We expect to be naturally good at it. We expect this skill to come easily.

What we forget is that every single skill that comes easily to us now wasn’t easy at all when we were first born.

It’s no effort to feed yourself now. Pick up food; place in mouth. You don’t even think about it. But when you were an infant, you picked up the spoon over and over and missed your mouth entirely. You did it all the time.

You did it until you finally mastered that skill.

You don’t learn anything overnight. You might pick up some skills more easily than others, but you still had to work hard to develop those skills. You’ve got to get comfortable with the idea that you’re still learning – and that learning means failing.

A lot.

The good news is that if you do it right, those failures can work for you. Every time the spoon missed your mouth as a child, you learned what didn’t work. Every time you got a bite in your mouth by sheer accident, you learned what did work.

That’s the attitude you want to bring to your rejections in copywriting – so you can master the slightly more sophisticated skill of becoming a professional writer.

Understanding Rejection:  Yes, It’s You

I was frequently frustrated with the repeated rejections of my writing. I would tell myself that I was a great copywriter, that those people just didn’t understand my style.  I’d tell myself that they were missing out.

It was a lot like when I was a baby, screaming at my mother for not getting food in my mouth properly, when in fact I was the one wielding the spoon.

Telling myself that my failure was someone else’s fault made me feel just a little bit better about the sting of rejection. Which was excellent for encouraging me to keep trying – eventually I’d run into someone who did their job properly and accepted my great writing – but it wasn’t much good at helping me actually improve my skills as a writer.

The idea that I was really the one to blame for my own failures didn’t sink until I was working at a friends’ office one day. I started my usual tirade at a current rejection.

My friend laughed at me.

At first I was stung by his amusement at my obvious distress but once I’d settled down, I listened to what he had to say.  He told me that in a business – even an online one – a business owner must know what they’re doing in order to succeed.  They make a point out of learning their industry in and out – so if they’re turning me down, it’s for a reason.

They weren’t rejecting my articles because they were bad at their job. They were rejecting my articles because I wasn’t good at my job. My articles were just not good enough. And no business owner can afford to accept less than the best.

Understanding rejection as a failure in myself, not in the business owners, was a huge step to improving my writing. I can’t just keep trying. I have to improve each time I try.

Turning Rejection into Education

When you understand that failure is your own fault, it’s easy to get depressed about it – but that’s not the real lesson here. As a child, you got frustrated at your failures all the time, but that doesn’t mean you gave up on feeding yourself or learning to walk or tying your own shoelaces.

You might have gotten frustrated on any given day and walked away from the skill you were trying to master. But the next day you were there again trying to improve – because mastering this skill was important to you.

So here’s the big question: is being a good writer important to you?

Is it important enough to keep working at it? Is it important enough that even when it’s frustrating to fail, even when you feel like giving up, you’ll keep pushing stubbornly forward bit by bit?

Rejection can be a great tool for self-improvement. Think of rejection as a form of free education.  Whenever something you wrote gets rejected by a client or by a blog-owner, ask why. Sometimes they’ll provide their reasons; sometimes you’ll be left to figure it out by yourself.

Often, you’ll discover that there is some critical part of the writing process that isn’t quite working for your clients.

For me, I jumped subjects way too often.  I had many clients tell me that my blogs didn’t have a point. It felt like a bunch of words, rammed together, without an underlying connection.

After I’d heard this enough, I realized that it was a large weakness of mine, so I put effort into fixing that specific problem. I started to write up outlines for each piece and filling in each section with information that was relevant.

This made each article take a bit longer, but I started actually selling them!

Turning rejection into education can help you from getting stressed out and giving up. Instead, you’ll give yourself a specific area to work on so you can master this important skill.

And that’s important – kids are encouraged to keep working hard when they see small improvements in their progress. They don’t need to master everything at once, but they do really need to see that they can improve at all.

You’re no different. If you try to just improve your writing overall, you’ll feel frustrated because every rejection is an indication you failed at that goal.

If you try to improve a specific area of your writing and your feedback in that specific area turns positive, you’ll know you’re making progress.

Creating Success from Failure

Once you’ve learned how to use criticism and rejection to improve your work, you’ll start to realize that failure can actually become a large key to success.

It’s not just about realizing what you’re doing wrong and fixing it, it’s about mastering each part of copywriting.  When you constantly fail, then you’re forced to reevaluate your work and really buckle down and focus on improving each part.

If your articles and blogs were accepted from the start, then you never had the chance to really evaluate your writing.  You never had the chance to realize what was wrong with it and what your weaknesses were.  You never had the chance to sit back and ask yourself how you could constantly improve.

Failure is just a chance to skip the pit of mediocrity that most people and writers fall into.  It’s not a rare opportunity; it’s just one that most people don’t notice.  When you see it and embrace it, you can start using it to excel.

And if you get discouraged, just remember: every skill you think of as effortless now was once incredibly hard for you. If you keep working at your writing, you’ll soon find that it becomes one of the skills that’s “effortless” in your future – even though it’s a lot of work now.

Post by Eric Pangburn

Eric Pangburn is a web content writer focused on creating solutions for any niche at Niche Store Content. When not locked up in his home office writing, he is busy spending time with his family or playing basketball. Recently he has been busy in relaunching a new site on digital marketing strategies called Infatex.

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  1. Great post. It’s not enough to get back on the horse, you’ve also got to realize why you fell off in the first place and change that behavior. Thanks!

  2. I’ve got a big knock on my head this morning by my boss. It’s stressed me up until I read your post. Now I wonder why I wasn’t born as a great writer. Sometimes there is a time we need to make mistakes. It’s a learning curve. It’s an education. But please hit me up occasionally, mistakes. You can only knock me out when I leave some space for you…:)

  3. Trust me I know the those knocks and have been there before. Just continue to learn, grow, and improve. One of my favorite quotes that I really come to really understand try to follow is, “Make everyday your Master piece.” If you continue to do your part in becoming the best, the rest will fall in place.

  4. This is so important and so clear, yet MANY people don’t get it. My students are always frustrated and want to dismiss themselves as bad writers and simply give up because of one essay. But I emphasize effort and lots of it.
    We can’t remember or even imagine anymore how much effort it took to learn to walk, speak, feed ourselves, get dressed, etc.

    We live in a society where things are made to look easy. We only see famous people after they’ve mastered the skill. We don’t see them during the years when they’re struggling the same way we are, so we develop these expectations that we have to be good at something from the start.

    All of these unproductive attitudes and notions are exactly why we need more posts like this.

    • Dear Sarah:

      Of course as a teacher you are in a position to understand lots of crafting. This is why I am not surprised by your comment by saying that we often spend more time appreciating famous people after they’ve mastered their duties in their skill. We don’t spend time observing them during the years when they’re struggling the same way we are while trying to work It is normal to develop expectations of something good that we want to achieve .

      Ntarugera François

  5. It’s amazing that we want to take responsibility when we succeed but blame others when we fail. If my writing or speaking doesn’t connect with someone, I can either learn to communicate in a way that does or I can keep blaming them . To succeed in any endeavor requires learning, effective practice and more learning–and that’s why success is sweet–it’s earned, not handed out.

    Great blog post and spot on!

  6. I disagree a bit. I know, there’s always one. I think we’re all born great. It’s just a matter of what we’re great at. Often we are a square peg that our parents or school or society as a whole is trying to shove into a round hole. Sir Ken Robinson tells a great story in his book “The Element” which he also tells in this talk:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HpCIQKSqDd4

    That’s my daughter. We can’t go to a restaurant without her eating standing up and twirling around. She dances on the soccer field as the ball passes her by. It takes her two hours to fall asleep because she can’t stop moving. We could push her into sports and make her practice until she gets it and learn from her rejection. Or we can send her to drama school.

    We fed her strength. Her passion. She dropped out of sports and is going to drama school and she is so naturally in her element.

    She was born great. It just took 9 years to really figure out what she was great at.

  7. Marc,

    Thanks for disagreeing, I would agree that we all need to be some balance and different perspectives thrown into the mix. While, I greatly appreciate and respect your opinion. Personally, I look at this way to say everyone is born great would be that your daughter is already the best dancer that should and could be right now.

    I guess that’s were I found myself just wanting to continue to grow and improve. Trying to find the path to greatness stated for me with asking the right questions within myself, before asking so many wrong questions to others.

    Thanks again for the great comment

  8. There are lots of ideas from why you aren’t born great and why that sound Okay by Eric Pngburn, but most importantly I got his message out from these huge ideas. What are these ideas I got fro him? We were not supposed to be frustrated by being criticized or rejected since both are forms of education when we are not rigid .

    writing good articles without working hard enough , definitely , we have to expect the failure without no return to the work. My friends journalists in Rwandan media industry and I do make lots of mistakes and when we face criticism from the readers then we turn to them without any respect at all. Too bad.

    As has been said already , kids do not need to master everything at once while learning how to stand and walk , but they do really need to see that they can improve it at least one day. It is the same with writing skills.

    Ntarugera François

  9. Amen. This is something I’ve come to realise over the summer ever since I declared, “I’m going pro with my blog!” and promptly crashed into a MASSIVE wall of inner resistance.

    “Am I good enough? What if they laugh at me? Look at your stats, they’re basically non-existent.” So much focus on the absence of hardcore skills, and not nearly enough elbow grease to elevate my writing to the next level. I did fall into the trap of thinking I’m great enough as it is, so I can totally relate to your story, Eric. :)

    As it is, I’m focusing on writing every day and improving my craft. It’s tough, and frustrating, and many days I just wanna skip it all together, but I’m slowly getting to the point where writing every day is almost second nature. Once I clear that, on to tweaking my copy until it SHINES. :D

    Thanks for your perspective, Eric. I appreciate it.

  10. Great article! I love inspirational stuff. My biggest question is when you did start you blog, how did you get your subscribers to comment on your writing? Did you have a call to action? I would like some tips on my writing from people outside my circle. Otherwise, I work at my writing everyday, and I will keep coming back for some useful tips!!

    • Hey Lanell,

      Thanks for the kind comments. I feel as writing speaks for itself and getting the right visitors to your site which find engaging enough to create conversation and blog comments. There are so many different place to network and to meet people outside your circle. A few that I would suggest would to be check at your local library, attend conferences, or even check out meetup.com.

      Thanks again for the kind words and hope that this comment was helpful as well,

      Eric

      P.S. if you ever need anything else by all means feel free to contact me directly

  11. I’m inclined to agree with Marc. I think we are all born great; it’s just a matter of figuring out what it is we’re great at.

    Yes, I’m a writer who just ended a sentence with a preposition; it just felt gooder!

  12. I guess, things happen for a reason and most often, it’s good. I think being great means a whole lot of things to every person. Even the simplest of deeds that help brighten up one’s day can make someone worthy of the title ‘great’. Just like you, I had my share of rejection in the writing world – where clients would ask me to map out their digital marketing blue print instead of writing content for them. The lesson? Instead of resisting, I listened this time and found out a whole new world of hidden skills I never imagined I would possess in my lifetime. It creeps me out sometimes.. but hey, it felt great to just go with the flow of fate.

  13. Dear Eric,
    First of all kudos for such a wonderful explanation about Success and failures and how to over come them through practise. You have penned indeed very concisely and with example of children.

    Yet on the whole I firmly believe, each one of us here for some purpose to fulfill, being born great or otherwise is not as important as being able to ‘recognise’ one’s innate inherent talents / skills and being able to build upon them….
    Each one is born different from the other, yet comes from the same source! to be able to make a ‘mark’ is to fathom what one actually is good at and enjoys naturally ( so on this cound I would agree with Stacey and Marc. Sometimes the self-realisation comes whilst one is young, spotted on by teachers, parents or one’s own self OR comes in rather late…… Yet each one is born great!

    {” Maybe in a different perspective, another dimension or light ; each child is a miracle alright” – Copyright Madhavi Sood }
    On the whole I liked your blog and the title ‘Men with Pens’ !!
    With Best Regards,
    Madhavi Sood alias Madhavi Mohandas
    Author of ‘From the Silence Within’

  14. Hey Eric,

    I love the conclusion you’ve come to of how important feedback from qualified sources is to the process of improvement.

    What you’re writing about made me think about something I read in a book by the world renown creativity expert Edward De Bono titled, “Teach Your Child To Think” and here’s something intriguing he says relevant to where you were before your friend gave you the loving wake up call . . .

    I’ve often defined thinking as “the operating skill at which intelligence acts upon experience.”

    Many highly intelligent people often take up a view on a subject and then use their intelligence to defend that view. Since they can defend the view very well, they never see any need to explore the subject, or listen to alternative views.

    This is poor thinking and is part of an intelligence trap.

    Highly intelligent people are usually good at solving puzzles or problems where all the pieces are given. They are less good at situations which require them to find the pieces and to assess the value of the pieces.

    Finally, there can be an ego problem.

    Highly intelligent people do like to be right. This may mean that they spend their time attacking and criticizing others since it is so easy to prove the others wrong.

    It also may mean that highly intelligent people are unwilling to take speculative risks because then they cannot be sure that they are right.

    There is, of course, nothing to prevent highly intelligent people from also being excellent thinkers. But this does not follow automatically.

    There is a need to develop the skill of thinking. In school, in puzzles, in tests, in examinations and in our value systems we put all the emphasis on cleverness.”

    Having an absence of the skill of thinking is something I believe hinders many an expert who venture into the world of owning their own business. Especially if they’ve gained their expertise via a university vs. out on the street in the real world.

    Adversity that comes as a result of being wrong can force you to do things you might not do otherwise, like ask smart questions about the way you’re doing business now.

    The only reason Francis Ford Coppola did the movie, “The Godfather” was because he owed the studio $8 million dollars. They were going to call in the loan. The movie has since brought in $2 BILLION dollars.

    Disney went bankrupt with his cartoon production business in Missouri which led to him moving to California. Has this business not failed, Disney studios might never have come to be.

    The TV show “Bay Watch” was cancelled after the first season. It was a disastrous failure. Hasselhoff bought the rights back and then syndicated the show himself. He couldn’t get anyone to take the show in the U.S. before he took it over seas and syndicated it there, first in 11 countries, and eventually with syndication in 144 countries in 32 languages which in turn, made him very, very rich.

    Madonna was fired from her glorious position as the hat check girl in a New York restaurant for wearing fishnet stockings. Had she not been fired, there would be no Lady Gaga.

    A TON OF WHETHER OR NOT SUCCEESS SHOWS UP IN YOUR LIFE IS DETERMINED BY HOW YOU RESPOND TO BEING TOLD “NO.” OR BEING FLAT OUT WRONG.

    And I thank you Eric for bringing consciousness to this topic as it is one that all too important for anyone who seeks to walk the path of a calculated risk taker. :)

    • Dear Lewis LaLanne,
      Thanks a lot for adding so much more dimension and depth of perspective to this article by Eric Pangburn. Enjoyed reading the discussion with so many points of view.

      This has actually set me thinking too on the way I am bringing up my little daughter too! I will pen down (typ out) some more again …. after we are done with exams :)
      Many thanks & Best Regards
      Madhavi Sood alias Madhavi Mohandas
      Author of ‘From the Silence Within’

      • Thank you Madhavi for your feedback.

        Along with this De Bono book, another one I highly recommend parents get their hands on for themselves as much as for their child, is by the author Shad Helmstetter and it is titled, “Predictive Parenting: What to say when you talk to your kids”. http://www.amazon.com/Predictive-Parenting-What-When-Talk/dp/0671679708/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350971841&sr=1-1&keywords=predictive+parenting

        The majority of us are on auto pilot when it comes to what flows out of our mouths and we unknowingly impart negative beliefs into our kids that unconsciously came out of our parents mouths that they didn’t mean to hurt us.

        And of course I’m not referring to flat out abuse here. Anyone with any kind of common sense can control that. But it’s the subtle installation of files that tell the program the child for less than their full capabilities.

        This section from the book emphasizes what I mean . . .

        “In my book What To Say When You Talk To Yourself, I wrote that during the first eighteen years of life, the average individual is told no or what he cannot do approximately 148,000 times. That is a rather conservative estimate. During the first eighteen years of your life, how many times were the no’s and the cannots balanced with programming from parents, teachers, and friends who told you what you could do in life?

        Children are told, “You can’t do that, ” You never listen when I talk to you,” “Can’t you do anything right?” “Where were you when the brains were passed out?” “You’re just no good at that,” or “You’ll never amount to anything,” and a thousand other, equally negative programs. And in every case, the child’s unconscious mind — his or her eagerly waiting personal computer — is designed to accept what it is told at face value, and program permanently, anything it is told! What incredibly poor programming a child’s mind sometimes receives!”

        It seems to me that majority of people ACT like they know what’s best for their kids instead of DOING what’s best for their kids. And of course, we all do the best we can with what we’ve got and for me it’s all about making my best better for I embrace the idea that if I am through learning, I am through.

        And one of the healthiest beliefs that we could ever instill in a impressionable mind is, “The name of the game is progress, not perfection.”

  15. Good read Eric

    I guess you can break down the process of changing a negative behaviour into 4 stages

    1) Identify your mistakes and admit them
    2) Understand why you are going wrong
    3 Analyse what can you do to change it?
    4) What choices are you going to make to move to your new path? – walking the talk

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