You don't have what it takes

Think you don’t have what it takes?

You are absolutely right.

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Maybe you are having a hard day.  Maybe you are trying to do something with your life and you’re struggling with it, you feel like you’re not moving forward at the rate you think you should, or you’re not moving at all.  Maybe you screwed up and you feel like a failure. Maybe you are full of frustration because you’re doing your best and it still isn’t happening, whatever “it” is for you.

I know exactly what all of that feels like.  

I have felt all of those things before and sometimes I still feel them and some days, like this past Saturday, I felt them all in one horrible day.


Let’s get a few things out of the way.

First of all, if you’re going to try to do something different, whether that’s adding new healthy habits into your life or expanding your business or just making work that feels valuable to you, it could be anything, really, anything that is just a little bit different from what you are doing right now, if you’re going to attempt that, then you are going to be exposed to a lot of difficult emotions.

So, basically, if you’re going to be a human being involved in this human thing -- which means growing and changing as you go along -- then get ready for the hard feels.

Things you might end up feeling:  frustrated, angry, furious, sad, depressed, despair-filled, hopeless, worthless, small, insignificant, broken, tired, exhausted, overwhelmed, stressed out, nervous, anxious, frightened, scared, scared shitless, more scared than you thought it was possible to feel.

Things you will also feel:  exultant, exuberant, excited, passionate, creative, powerful, magnificent, blessed, protected, lucky, special, important, meaningful, influential, courageous, giving, connected, clear headed, driven, balanced, grounded, happy, joyful, celebratory, whole-hearted.

Obviously that second list is a lot more fun.  A word of warning: fun doesn’t matter here.  The first list is just as important as the second so “no one up there” cares that you like the second list better, you’re going to feel all of it because you need to feel all of it to learn what you need to learn in order to actually make the progress you said you wanted.

Second, this is hard work, it’s hard work and you’re going to want to quit 100 times in a day and that also does not matter, you don’t get to quit.  You are here to do your job and quitting time is a far away blip on the horizon that you shouldn’t wish for too soon (spoiler alert:  “quitting time” for human beings is dying, that’s when you’re done with this work, when you die).  

No matter how hard the job is there is no quitting.  There is resting.  There is learning how to manage the hard parts.  Figuring out how to rest and how to manage and even how to enjoy the struggle are things you only learn by actively engaging in this whole thing.

There is no quitting.  And you know what else?  Third thing:  being here, doing this job, creating the work that is the purpose of your life -- it is an honor.  You are being given a gift.  I know, I know -- it’s not exactly what you imagined.  Maybe it’s also not what you wanted. But you know, horses and their mouths…

And finally, fourth:  you’ve got choices, kid.  You can choose to accept this gift and do this thing (whatever your “thing” is, whatever hard but not impossible but also not attainable thing you are going to chase your whole life -- that thing) and do it with your whole heart.  You can also choose to not do this.  And you can choose to do it and then quit and then start again whenever you are ready.  And all of those are fine. All of them are the right choice.

(How can that be so?  How can all the choices be the right choice?  Because time never stops ticking.  The choice you make right now and the choice you make ten minutes from now are appropriate right now and ten minutes from now -- as time moves so do situations change, and people, and what they need changes, too.  So if you need to say “yes” right now, then that’s right for right now. And if tomorrow you need to say “fuck it” and stay in bed, then that’s right for tomorrow because you do not know what the next tomorrow will bring, you don’t know the plan and that’s okay.  You’re here to do a job, not be middle management, so don’t get tied in a knot about that stuff.  It’s just a distraction.  And maybe you’ll feel less stressed out about making the “right” choice if you know they are all right.)

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Ok, back to where we started then:  you think you don’t have what it takes.

And I said, “you’re absolutely right.”

Because you are, you’re right, you don’t have what it takes.  Because its. not. about. that.  It’s about how you’re going to make what you need, on the spot, as you go, from what you find while you are on this adventure.

Think you need to be “talented” or “famous” or “rich” or “better” or whatever thing you have decided you are not, to be able to do your job?

Bullshit, buddy.

Let me tell you a few more truths.  The Wright Brothers did not know how to build an airplane.  Elizabeth Gilbert did not know how to write a book. Steve Jobs did not know that the world wanted the iPod.  Prince did not know how to play guitar.

At one point all of those people were beginners and they just fucking did it anyway.  They took that first step into the void and started with nothing and made something.  They built a plane, wrote a novel, created a piece of technology, composed a song. None of them had “it.”  None of them knew what they were doing when they first started because they had never done it before.  Some of them started from total scratch, some of them were just inexperienced (that’s how everybody starts, by the way).

And all of those people fucked up.  They failed. They crashed the plane or wrote a stupid book or built a machine that didn’t work or made a bad song.  And they crumpled their plans up into a ball and sat in the corner and cried and called their best friend and wailed, “I’m a failure and I’m never going to make it and I don’t know what to do!”

Know how I know?  Because that’s how I spent last Saturday.

And then maybe they made a plan to just take their ball and go home, to move to the woods where no one can find them and they don’t have to make anything, or at least they don’t have to show it to anyone and maybe have it rejected or have someone see that they’re not always good or even vaguely competent at what they do.

It feels terrible.  It’s scary and frustrating and lonely.  Even though everyone has felt this, it’s still lonely.  Because it’s you. But everyone has felt this.  Everyone has been scared and uncertain and frustrated and ready to give up.

Unfortunately for you and me, as I already mentioned, there is no giving up.  There is no quitting.  There is wanting to quit.  There is sometimes even temporary quitting -- for a day or a month or a decade or more.  

But here is why I know that it will be okay:  because even if we quit, we always come back, we can’t stay away.  We dream about it, we talk about it, we shift uncomfortably in our seats just itching to try again even though we also feel all the hard things at the same time.  We are hooked on trying to sing our song, tell our story, make our art, reinvent the wheel (but better!), change the world, climb the mountain, love with our whole, broken-but-mended, hearts.


That is being alive.  That’s the job.


I had a really shitty Saturday.  I wanted to quit and I spent my whole day crying and feeling like I’ll never figure it out and I’m terrible and on and on and on.  You know what I mean. That’s being alive, too. That’s the job, too.

And I remembered that I am allowed to want to quit, but I don’t get to quit.  Even if I quit, I don’t get to quit.  (Quitting’s part of it, too.) This whole beautiful, hard, surprising, shitty thing is the gift.  There is no quitting, there is no giving it back. No returns and no exchanges. I lost the receipt.  (There wasn’t even a name signed on the card, come to think of it.)

And I remembered everyone who has come before me.  The ones who didn’t know what they were doing and did it anyway.  And how their words and their work and their stories and their songs have been like lifeboats for me, they’ve saved me when I needed it.  So I remembered that I do this for me, and I do it for you, too.


Whoever you are, if you ever find this message in a bottle:  don’t quit. You can’t, anyway -- but don’t.


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Jack Taylor