Are You Doing What You Do Best?

5cupsSome people go through life thinking they’re on the right path, doing what they’re supposed to be doing, but it’s a struggle every step of the way.

Maybe that person is you. Maybe you have a career you never wanted but everyone told you to pursue it. Maybe you’re trying to learn a new skill and nothing seems to be going well, but everyone else thinks it’s easy. Maybe others admired a talent of yours and told you to invest in it, so you did – but you never really enjoyed it and now you feel stuck.

The 5 of Cups

I used to be a professional Tarot reader. I worked at the Renaissance Faire in New York for a few years reading cards. That was a long time ago, though, and now the most I do is a reading for a friend from time to time.

The woman sitting before me was very talented and looking for answers. She wanted to know why she felt like she couldn’t be as good as everyone else seemed to be. She said that no matter how hard she tried, she could never replicate the success of others or perform with as much ease as her co-workers.

One of the cards in the woman’s reading was the Five of Cups. In a traditional deck, this card pictures a person saddened over the loss of the contents of one cup. If he only turn around, he’d see he still had four full cups behind him.

It hit me: The woman wasn’t focusing on what she does best.

Know Thyself

You can’t compare yourself to others. Everyone has his or her own style, talent and skill set. You have to figure out what your personal strengths are and use them to your advantage instead of trying to be someone else. What works for one person might not work for you.

It’s fine to have role models and mentors and it’s fine to have an ideal to shoot for. Goals and ideals are necessary to living a fulfilled life. Aiming for them can provide fantastic results. And if you fall short of your goals? Well, you came damned close, didn’t you? You also learned along the way.

If you fail to reach your goals, does this mean you should give up and never try anything else ever again? Hell, no. You haven’t done anything wrong.

The setback is an opportunity to learn. Some of the greatest inventions never worked at all the first time around. The inventors watched their efforts blow up in their faces, they wiped off the soot and figured out why there was an explosion. There had to be a reason. They dove back in, tweaked the machine, and gave it another go.

They knew they could do it. Or at least, they were willing to try.

When you understand the limitations , when you know yourself and what you’re capable of doing, your goals are much easier to set. You’ll have confidence in your skills, which helps bolsters you through the hard times, and you’ll push through to the finish line.

You know that you’re good at what you do – it’s just a matter of getting past the sticking point and having enough faith in yourself to see the task through.

Find Your Focus

Realize the strengths you have. Focus on them, and you’ll find the world opens up for you. How do you find your focus? It’s not by spending your whole life searching for something that’s probably right in front of your face.

Start by taking a step back and stripping away the emotional attachment you have to what you’re doing now. Shed the fear. What is your true motivation for trying to do what you’re doing? Is it for approval from peers? Are you trying to live up to someone else’s standards? Are those standards real or imagined? Or is it just a lack of confidence?

You have all the tools for success right in your hand. Everyone has a set of unique talents. These differences make the world go round. If we were all the same doing the same in equal measure of talent, life would be pretty boring.

Your skill set and talents are yours and yours alone. Learn how to use them in the most effective way for you.

The moment I told my friend the same, it was as if the heavens had opened up and shed new light on her situation. Her subtle shift in perspective was enough to revive her hope and motivation.

She didn’t have to keep up with the others anymore. What others did wasn’t what she was meant to do. By the same token, others weren’t meant to do what she did either.

The next time you find yourself struggling, ask yourself whether this is what you really should be doing. If you’re sitting there, shaking your head and thinking, “What the hell am I doing?”, then, my friend, you need a change of perspective.

That doesn’t mean give up or quit, because it still takes effort to polish raw natural talent. But if you’ve given the situation your best shot and are still are not getting the results you hoped for, maybe it’s time to re-assess and see if your energy would be better spent elsewhere.

Do that now. Take a look at your life, and ask yourself if it feels right. If the answer is yes, then by all means keep on keeping on. If you feel some doubt, that’s okay. Explore further and ask yourself questions about what area might not be fitting well.

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. What a timely article for me!

    While I enjoy blogging, I really light the world (okay my world) on fire when I hack code and build thousands of unique pages/documents/sites/etc. via my own admittedly weird thought processes.

    This morning, I remembered something I had tested out 4 years ago, used Google to dig it up, analyzed what I had done, and spent this past morning updating it past the future. Oh, my fingers flew, my Photoshop sang, and my creativity shot into the stratosphere. I’m still on a high from it.

    Being able to listen to your inner wisdom….it can create miracles.

    Data points, Barbara

    Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach´s last blog post…Painfully simple affiliate marketing tip from a Ninja Rubber Ducky

  2. Another great thing about finding yourself is that after doing so you’ll also start to find your right people. If birds of a feather flock together, instead of attracting chickens or turkeys you can start to attract eagles when you realize that’s what you are.

    Terry Heath´s last blog post…Three Ways to Make Your Inner Critic Neurotic

  3. And if you struggle to reach your goals — consider smaller steps. Smaller goals. For example, your goal might be “quit smoking.” Maybe it would be better to think “Cut back one cigarette per day or per week.” Give the brain time to adjust and agree. That’s the kaizen approach and it works.

    Meryl Evans´s last blog post…Get in the Mood for Love

  4. I was puttering around my house the other day (actually I think I was scrubbing the toilet) when it hit me that what I’ve been doing all along isn’t what I do best. I enjoy it, but I’m not the best at it. I’m actually better at something else I’ve been doing “on the side” even if I don’t enjoy it quite as much.

    Now I’ve decided to do both but focus more on the “best” one. It always amazes me that after I have these huge “A-ha!” moments I end up reading a post about it the next day.

    Cassie – MamasOnTheWeb´s last blog post…WAHMs, how many cups of coffee a day?

  5. There’s a lot to be said for paying attention to what the universe is trying to tell you. If everything seems to be an uphill battle, if nothing is falling into place, it may be because you are on the wrong path. Stop. Take a deep breath and look around. You’ll find that things are not working because you are supposed to be doing something else.

    This may take a little time. Instant results are rare in these circumstances. You will know you are on the right path when you feel like you could do what you are doing forever. When you realize that hours have passed and you haven’t even stopped for food or drink.

    Take the time and you will find your passion. It is there, just waiting for you to discover it.


    Tumblemoose´s last blog post…85 writing posts and counting

  6. This really hit a nerve for me. I used to be a mathematician, but I never felt I was really good at it. Still, I felt like I needed to work on my WEAKNESSES to try to get better. Finally, I was at a performance review meeting with my boss, spouting some b.s. about how I felt that X was a weakness of mine and I really wanted to work on it. My employer asked, “have you ever thought about working on your strengths instead?” It was then that it dawned on me: my strength isn’t math, it’s writing and teaching. What if I focused on that instead? Life’s been much easier ever since. And I’m doing a better job to boot!

    Monica´s last blog post…Twitter Basics from Janet Barclay

  7. Harry, I didn’t know you had a thing for Tarot. Prefer Shaman Wisdom Cards myself.

    My co-worker however is very much in tune with all that and she helped put me back on track last year when I was going through a major battle with depression. To say she read me like a book is an understatement.

    You are one interesting guy penman!

    Marc – WelshScribe´s last blog post…Would You Write if No One Was Around to Read Your Words

  8. @Barbara: Isn’t it amazing what you can pull from those mental files? Sometimes an idea is just ahead of it’s time, but once the time is right, it all falls into place.

    @Terry: Attract eagles instead of turkeys, I like that.

    @Meryl: Yes, smaller steps are key, no doubt about that. It’s easy to get swept away in the moment and not realize that there are a ton of little details to hammer out first before reaching that ultimate goal.

    @Cassie: Life’s funny that way, isn’t it? It’s like the radio playing songs that hit your heart with a particular current situation, or how all the shows and commercials on TV are trying to tell you something. Maybe it’s just that we’re more aware and seeing what we didn’t see before, so now we see it everywhere.

    @Tumblemoose: Living in a world where instant gratification is the norm often makes many people forget that sometimes the best things in life take time. There’s no quick fix for finding what you do best, it takes a lot of trial and error, all you can do it keep trying and not give up.

    @Monica: I hear you on that. Isn’t it amazing how a tiny shift in perspective can change your whole outlook? And to a more positive one to boot!

    @Marc: I’ve used several different decks over the years, but I like the stained glass feel of the Art Nouveau. I’m glad to hear you found a good reader who helped you out. At the Faire I had a few repeat clients who would return each year with an update on the previous year’s reading and nothing is more fulfilling than knowing you helped to make a difference in someone’s life.

  9. Beautiful stained glass Tarot card! I just finished readng a psot on Blogging Without a Blog taking a different approach to similar issues, so now I feel I’m “rich” with ideas to counter the doubts. Thanks!

    Dot´s last blog post…OpenOffice Extensions

  10. Harry, I love this post, but the very first thing I have to say? I’m just tickled to learn that you used to read Tarot cards for a living–how cool is that? I’ve got a couple decks of my own but am dreadful at remembering what all the cards stand for, so my attempts at reading are always punctuated by frequent checks of the reference books … not helpful!

    Now, as to the post itself, yes, yes, and yes. You have to know what you can do and how willing you are to work at it. As always, the tricky part is figuring exactly what those limits are.

    (Also, yes, that stained glass card is STUNNING.)

    –Deb´s last blog post…What IS an E-Book?

  11. @Dot: Doubts are a part of the process, they send up red flags and poke us to pay attention. Sounds like your positive attitude helped you turn them around. Hope all those rich ideas lead to something good!

    @Deb: I started out with a little paper guidebook too, almost everyone does 🙂 When I was a kid, there were many hours spent at the kitchen table doing “readings” for the family (who put up with it). The best way to learn is to let go of the book and just get used to saying what comes to mind from the pictures. Make a story from what they’re telling you.

    In regard to the post; limits are a big part of the learning process. Since there’s no guidebook for that, you try and keep trying. If it works just a little bit, then take that and see how you can make the rest better.

  12. I really enjoyed this post. I hate being miserable, even if it means being poor, lonely, or clinically insane. Doing what you do best not only brings out the best in you, but it brings out the best in others around you. Happiness often follows those that follow their true path.

    Nathan Hangen´s last blog post…Bring Your Friends Along

  13. Considering that I just took a flying leap into the great What’s Next, I think it’s safe to say that I’m about to find out if I’m doing what I do best. 🙂

    That said (and with said caveat), I think it’s vital for people to explore life and find the right thing to do with it. You only get one chance. Time to make it happen!

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Write´s last blog post…My Great What’s Next is Finally Here!

  14. I am also totally amused to learn Harry’s secret past as a tarot reader! Back in my days as an AOL Chat Host (oh yeah, very high profile job – I got to GAG PEOPLE!), I used to work the ASTRONet chats and made lots of psychic friends. Used to read tarot myself for a bit and now am feeling inspired to figure out what box my deck is packed away in… it’s somewhere… maybe in the closet…

    As far as knowing yourself, it applies in so many ways. In the online dating biz, I’m always trying to find ways to make my clients stand out as their own people. You can’t always be as handsome as the next guy or as book-smart as the other girl. What you can be is yourself and in the end, that’s what’s going to attract the right people to you.

    Geek’s Dream Girl´s last blog post…OMG, You’re Naked! Or, Online Dating Privacy

  15. Oh my goodness Harry,

    That is so cool that you used to do Tarot all those many moons ago! I love all that stuff and still find it very helpful..

    Thanks for the great post on the importance of assessing the difference between when you’re struggling because something is just not right for you or if the struggle is just part of your natural process.

    And yes…. that card is gorgeous!

    chris Zydel´s last blog post…SECRET # 7: FINDING CREATIVE GUIDES and CREATIVE GUIDANCE

  16. Absolutely fantastic write-up. Yes, pretty much spot-on one must try to excel in that field in which he/she finds herself as the best. This surely keeps self-esteem levels higher all the time.

  17. Thanks for the great post Harry,
    I have been struggling with my direction for several years now. I am almost 50 and I have raised 3 daughters with one more 16 years of age. I have been a good provider because I thought that was the important role of a man. I am very successful in my job but I am not “into it.”
    I have always wanted to write and so I started a couple of blogs and I am loving it. I have to get up two hours early every morning to write because the typing bothers my wife. But when I have created a post I am on top of the world. I float to work and then reality hits, but at least I have felt the joy of putting pen to paper (or fingers to key board in this case).
    Thank you for your insightful thoughts.

    Andy@no carb foods´s last blog post…No Carb Snacks For A Low Carb Diet

  18. Great post! I do tarot cards as a hobby as well, and I get the card you’re showing frequently — probably for the same reasons as the woman you’re talking about.

    I also love the image of the card you posted, who made it?

  19. @Ann: That card is from the Art Nouveau deck by Matt Meyers.

    @Andy: Good to hear you’ve found writing such a pleasure – and that you’re finding the time (or would that be making the time?) to do it!

    @Brooks: When things go well, yes, the self-esteem soars. The trick is to keep it up even when you hit a sticking point.

    @Chris: I think you hit on a good point: Knowing when the struggle is part of the growing process or if you’re simply banging your head on the keyboard for no good reason at all. Hard to tell which is which until you’ve kept at it for a while and gave your best shot.

    @GDG: Easier said than done, but not impossible!

    @Jamie: Congrats on the leap! How are you enjoying the view so far?

    @Nathan: Nope, nobody wants to be miserable, that’s for sure. Sometimes maintaining a positive outlook is a job all in itself, but do it often enough and it soon becomes second nature.

  20. @Harry Enjoying the free fall descent. 😉 I’m sure that by Monday I’ll be in the throes of a full-fledged nervous breakdown. lol

    Seriously though, I’m excited about the future. There’s nothing like getting out of your comfort zone to help you discover just how happy you can be.

    Jamie Grove – How Not To Write´s last blog post…My Great What’s Next is Finally Here!

  21. I’ve heard good things about Men With Pens and have finally made it over here. I love the look of this blog! The background is fabulous.

    I’m coming to realize what I do well and am living it instead of dreaming about it. I’ve always been a writer at heart, and since I started blogging last year I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve also started a life coaching practice. I know… everyone seems to be a life coach these days.

    For me the coaching inspires the writing, and the writing leads to further insights for coaching. I’d say it’s about 50/50. Now all I have to do is convince the “universe” of this. It’s one thing to be doing what you love and exercising your talents, but even better when you can earn a living doing it! That would be heaven. I wonder what Tarot card you would draw for me — hint, hint 🙂

    Davina´s last blog post…Benefits Of Turning Off Comments

  22. Great post,

    At school I did well in just about every subject, becasue rather than pat attention to what I loved, I wanted to please the teachers, this might sound like a good attitude, but I found it transferred into the workplace – I wanted to please the boss, and often would ignore my passions in order to do what I felt would make them happy.

    Though I mostly enjoyed working, I’ve now woken up to realise I was neglecting my true passions and decided that the only way I could “please the boss” and nourish my soul…was to make myself the boss.

    Self employed and enjoying it so far!

    Amy Harrison´s last blog post…Marketing Your Blog or Business – 5 Ways to Keep Focused

  23. When I was applying for college I thought I should major in Computer Science because it was a lucrative and popular field. But I couldn’t do it. My heart led me to another direction, Screenwriting. I’m glad I listened to my spirit because my parents would have been pissed about wasting their money.

  24. I’m so working on this one. I tend to be a person of extremes, a perfectionist, and impatient. So I take it all on, expect myself to do it perfectly the first time around and if I don’t succeed right away, I want to move on to something new.

    I’m finally learning patience, tenacity and perseverance and guess what? It’s working! 😉

    Alex Fayle | Someday Syndrome´s last blog post…Do you double-standard yourself to death?

  25. Nice post and it is so hard to focus on one thing when the people around you keep saying they like this, and this, and this, and this. What I believe I have to focus on is mentoring and creating people with like vision and skills.

    Stephen Boyle “Fuzzytek”´s last blog post…313FAD fashion networking on March 16

  26. Anonymous - for the sake of my future says:

    Ouch. There are 28 comments here (and all brilliant, at that) so the odds are that no one will ever read this one. Ever. Yet I’ll write it:

    It seems funny that knowing you limitations will let you know what you are good at (“When you understand the limitations, when you know yourself and what you’re capable of doing”) doesnt knowing your limitiations let you know what you are _not_ good at?

    My limitations are highly real. My boss threatened to let me go. Another senior hinted that my strengths might be in other areas, and mentioned one activity – which of course is an activity that I hate.

    And those activities that I both rock at and enjoy – aren’t paid. Like sipping coffee at a cafe, reading a book with an intellectual frown (the frowns on me, not the book).

    So until I get to know myself better, or get fired, I’ll stay where I’m not so much wanted, as difficult to let go.

    And if there was a question in this rant (besides the rhetorical one), it was: Knowing your limitations seems easy – but how do you discover your “talent and style”?

  27. @ Anonymous – Gravatars are such wonderful things, eh? 😉

    So 28 comments does get you read, every time. And I think the answer to your question is in your own words – “Those activities I rock at and enjoy…” You already know what your talent and style are. You just have to find a way to turn those dreams into reality instead of waiting for them to come to you.

  28. Hey !!! “Anonymous – for the sake of my future” I did read your comment. Guess what I liked it the most. Maybe cause part of it resembles at what my lifestyle had been so far.

    Now the situation is so bad that I hate to work for anyone. Anything I do for myself pleases me the most. I plan my stuff. Every day has a part of it surrounded by challenges.

    I know I am not the only one who leads such a life, there are many others. I am just another guy who wants to speak his mind and put it to practice in reality.

    I Want To Be My Own Boss´s last blog post…6 Reasons Why Making Money Online Makes Sense!


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