Oct 2014

Can you really be good at everything?

Skills vs Gifts

Think about this. Math is not only a skill we are taught from an early age, but it’s also thought of as something an individual can be really good at. Something you could be “gifted” at doing. The reverse of that then is we commonly say, “I’m just not good at math.” And we accept that premise.

But let’s take another skill we were taught: reading. At no point were we given a pass on learning to read. No one in modern American culture would admit, “I’m not any good at reading.” They might say they don’t read much, but never is it qualitative about their skill level.

So two elementary skills. One we deem as necessary to basic survival as a human being. And the second we leave to professionals and electronics to do for us.

But what if we had to be good at math? Could we all become not just competent, but proficient at this skill?

At some point, we all evaluate what our purpose is on earth. What we do, and how that measures up with other people. Am I really as gifted as the guy with the YouTube channel who does the same thing? Or is what I do just good because I spent so much time doing it over and over again?

The truth is, most of what people create that we love took a long time of slow growth over time, even if they had some natural ability. There is no shortcut to creating something people want. It’s about small incremental changes. Learning new tricks. Finding new ways to do things better, more efficient, with more wow factor. And when I want to shortcut that, that’s when I get most depressed. Most anxious. Most future oriented towards the brink of mental exhaustion trying to envision where all my hard work is really taking me.

Making more skills

What this conundrum about math vs reading first got me thinking about was this idea that maybe there are more skills in my life I’ve been writing off as weaknesses. I’ve been thinking I should just hand them off to other people, when really if I would spend more time in the trenches struggling I could make them into something I was actually good at. So I wrote this piece about 45 different ways to try to get that point across, when I started realizing that writing is one of those crafts that I know I have no greater ability at then most people, and this process was killing me to figure out. I was literally showing myself that maybe that wasn’t true. I couldn’t force a better post out of this thought.

After taking some time off I realized that my nugget of fascination was truly on the skill vs gifting paradigm, and my own desire to finally figure out what in this world I’m suppose to spend my time crafting. Because right now I have so many “activities” i’ve engaged in and at the same time feel unpurposeful in my pursuit of all these skills. Marketing. Business. Social media. Writing. Building an audience. Cinematography. Photography. Editing. Sound. Podcasting. Email Marketing. SEO. ROI. Analytics. All or most of these things I can convince myself are valuable for my business, so I keep pushing into them with the idea that the more I can do, the more I’m valuable to other people (translated: money-money-money).

Can you really be good at everything?

What I’m seeing is that with the mind of a problem solver, I can find ways to get better at most skills I have intrigue and at least some natural ability for. Marketing, business, filmmaking, photography, most the digital visual arts, writing, and some performance. With slow growth over time, I can become pretty good at each of these.

However, should I invest more time in those areas of opportunity as apposed to that which I am greatly gifted at? NO. To be purposeful in life, you need to invest most heavily and regularly in what you believe you can be truly great at, then continue to offer it to people over and over again. After putting your primary time and energy into those things, then you can invest in the skills you can take from average to competent, or competent to pretty good.


What are the skills you are putting primary and secondary investment into developing in your life? Are some of the secondary ones taking up way too much of your time?

Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Because we all need to read and do math, but we don’t all need to be A Beautiful Mind.

  • Jess Mitchell

    Good thoughts! I agree. We can so quickly get caught up in doing it all, or trying to be so broad to “throw some spaghetti on the wall and see what sticks” that we lose all effectiveness. Digging, really digging into what we can be amazing at is key!!

    • jbwaggoner

      What’s that for you?