Do what you’re good at

I had an interesting experience last weekend while helping my friend carry out garbage from his renovation down 3 flights of stairs across a courtyard into a container. I really sucked at it, and felt miserable and sad, mentally rehearsing my excuses for my unified suckage, going over the reasons to politely say no next time someone asked me to do something like that.

But then something happened. Rather than tightening my jaw and struggling through it, I started sorting the garbage. Large pieces of plaster over here, small pieces of plaster over there. Long pieces of wood over here, short ones there, twisted aluminum frames over there by them selves. Gently pulling pieces of wood nailed together apart, so they were easier to carry.

It was a form of work that I enjoyed infinitely more, that I was infinitely better at, and that allowed the other two guys to just focus on carrying stuff up and down the stairs.

My friend then told me that they’d been working for hours before I came, and had accomplished almost nothing, because they wasted so much time trying to pull things out of the pile, but it was all tangled together, and the end result was that they mostly just stood there chatting, not doing anything. He said if I’d been there from the start, they’d have been all done hours ago.

It was obviously a great experience for me, but isn’t it remarkable how close I was to just giving up, resigning, finding any excuse to get the hell out of there becasue I wasn’t making any difference and I felt miserable? And the reality was I was just one small step away from feeling great and making a huge difference?

I bet that happens all the time. That we’re so focused on doing what’s expected, or what we ourselves expect of ourselves, rather than what we’d really enjoy, what we’d be really good at. It takes a little bit of courage to do that. To step out of the comfort zone and do what feels right. What if they don’t approve? Maybe they just think I’m being lazy, that I’m not being a team player. Maybe it won’t work, maybe I’ll actually suck at it. In any case, it feels so easy, it can’t really be valuable, can it?

I’m sure it happens all the time, and it’s a crime against humanity. Make a commitment today to look out for opportunities for you to stop perpetrating this crime.

Deal?