The day after I graduated from eighth grade, my mother made as passing remark to me as I sat in the kitchen chomping down on a Toaster Strudel. I was scarfing it down, I just wanted to get back up to my video games.
“You know Kyle, Ms. Smith (8th grade history teacher) came up to me after the ceremony. She said in all her years teaching (she was 80 years old!), she’d never seen someone with more wasted potential. She said it could have been you up there giving that Valedictorian speech.”
I sniggered and dove back into the Toaster Strudel. Mhmm, strawberry.
I was 13 years old and unconcerned at the time of what some 80-year-old history teacher thought of me. At that moment, I probably thought that she should actually be in the history book—she was so old.
However, I look back at this now and chuckle at myself. Because now, I can see what she meant. The thing was, I actively chose not to participate in her class. It was dull. I didn’t care about history. I wanted to read Lord of the Rings and doodle during class. I was pretty good at getting away with it, too. Except the one time she caught me and gave me detention. Heh.
In hindsight, it was my first step away from the norm. Doing what society told me I was supposed to do with my life. More likely than not, you’ve had a similar situation.
Maybe at work you’re absolutely unable to focus.
Perhaps your college (or high school, for you real young ‘ins) classes are an exercise of how to get through it versus learning yourself.
This is okay.
You learn by doing. Do you think I learned more about the world by traveling it or by reading a book on someone’s experience? Don’t get me wrong. A good book can be worth its weight in gold. A thousands times over.
However, things are rarely black and white. The only way to learn is to do it yourself. The only way to learn is to get it wrong. All that matters is that you learn from that mistake.
If you’re unengaged in something, perhaps you need to look in the mirror.
Are you doing something because you’re told it’s the way it’s supposed to be done?
I was told my entire life growing up that there were things that we had to do that were just…unpleasant. That it was, “Part of life”.
These days I look at my life and think:
Why should I do things I don’t want to do? In fact, I don’t. But I also have the work ethic that I’ve made it from that sense. Most of my work now consists of things I want to do. Because I built my business around passions. Passion is the great fuel of the universe.
The things I don’t want to do, I outsource. I don’t edit my books. I don’t do my taxes myself. I don’t write articles that I don’t want to.
No longer am I slave—so no, I will not do what I don’t want to do. Life does not have to be unpleasant. What’s the point of working hard if you have no desire for the end goal?
Yes, hard work matters. But passion is the fuel to that hard work. Take a recent niche site I was going to build recently. It was selling a product with a high price tag. A cool electronic gizmo. My plan was to write reviews and send out the affiliate links.
I wrote two posts and wanted to kill myself. I was going to hire a writer to create the content, then I decided to scrap the whole project. I didn’t want to throw my weight behind something that I had zero enthusiasm for.
But Ukraine Living? Man, that site is fun to write.
If you’re truly unable to focus and miserable, for God’s sake—do something about it! Life is short. Don’t waste your potential doing something that makes you miserable. That is no way to live.
Mrs. Smith was right about one thing. I could have been the person giving the speech that faithful night in 2005. If it had been me though, things would have been different. I guarantee you wouldn’t be reading This Is Trouble right now.
Because that same attitude of wanting to forego history class made me able to walk away from my job and blog full-time. That desire to break out of the traditional mold made me a free man. Mrs. Smith’s path would have had me working in a cubicle for the next 40 years.
So sure, I was trouble back when I was in 8th grade.
But, if Mrs. Smith saw me now, she’d be proud. She told me repeatedly throughout the year that I was a good writer.
If she’s still alive and kickin’ out there, I’d send her a letter telling her this story. I’d tell her she was right all along about me.
I just needed to write my own history.