You’ve probably heard of an epiphany. A point in your life where something becomes clear to you in a whole new light and you grasp the essential meaning of it. You wake up one day and you have this great conviction that there is a new perspective on how you’ve always seen things. And seeing this new perspective elevates you one step up the ladder that is your life. I don’t truly believe that birthdays are the doorways to new chapters in our lives. The true doorways are those moments when we begin to see things differently from how we’ve always seen them.
I had such a revelation some time back. I should start with a little back story, though. I am what people would call rigid and inflexible and overall too serious with life. I like making plans for everything, up to the very last detail. If I fail to do that, then my mind will have a party convincing me that the thing I am doing will fail because I didn’t have a plan. I guess I grew up reading too many quotes that said, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” and took them to heart. It’s a notion that has been drilled into our heads since we were children.
So it’s always the same Ferris wheel ride for me. When I want to do something, I spend an insane amount of time just reading about it or planning how I’m going to do it, and in the end, I never get it done. John Green described this mental state perfectly.
“Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia. You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.”
I had thought about writing for a while. To be precise, for years. So what did I do? I started reading books about writing. Then the self-doubt kicked in. Who am I to think that I can actually write anything? Who will even want to read what I write? I mean, there are way better-qualified people out there to do this than me. And I just gave up, as usual. It took someone really close to me to snap me out of it.
He told me that I wasting away my potential in the name of being a perfectionist. Not just in doing the things I love, but in the entirety of my life. I was going to spend my whole life getting ready and not actually doing anything. It would be my biggest regret on my deathbed, whether that’s one year from now or seventy years from now. So I snapped out of it. And that was my epiphany. That you don’t have to be the best at something to do it. Doing something consistently is how you become the best at it.
Malcolm Gladwell said that good writing does not succeed or fail on the strength of its ability to persuade. It succeeds on the strength of its ability to engage you, to make you think, to give you a glimpse into someone else’s head — even if in the end you conclude that someone else’s head is not a place you’d really like to be. I think that can apply to every area of our lives. If you want to do something, just do it. You’re not trying to convince people that you are the best at it. You’re just showing them what your thought process looks like. It doesn’t have to be pretty or well thought out, you just need to have fun doing it.