Things I Wish I Knew Sooner (Part1)

Ayami Garcia

The Not Good Enough story

Artist Level: All Levels

Up until recently, I thought that people who knew how to draw were just born geniuses. They had hit the lottery in the gene pool and knew how to draw from birth. They have innate talent… and I don’t. Well, it turns out, it’s a little more complicated than that.

We all carry this dialogue in our heads. I’m not good enough. Personally, it paralyzes me every time I try to do any creative endeavor. The fact is, everyone goes through this self-doubt. I always have to remind myself that this is part of the creative process. You have to force yourself not to think twice about it and JUST DO IT as Nike famously puts it.

Now, just telling myself this, at first, was NOT at all convincing. I needed solid reasoning behind why my fear was unjustified. So I came across a few books, a few TED talks, a few podcasts, and finally found some things to nudge me forward.

Honestly, it could have been anything so long as it was convincing enough. I needed a pre-recorded message to play whenever self-doubt reared its ugly face.

So here are 3 things I’ve gathered to get me out of the self-doubt funk.

The Factory Model Education System

I am by no means trying to say the educational system is the root of all evil. In fact, I think there are some valuable things to learn from taking a public school education. I would just like to shine a light on some of the things that have personally affected me ( and probably a lot of you out there as well).

So if you haven’t already heard, the Factory Model Education System is how children are still being processed in schools today. It has not changed much since it’s inception (since the Industrial Revolution). And the reason why they had standardized this way of schooling was that they needed workers to work in factories.

A bunch of kids in class told to sit in assigned seatings, obey authorities, wait for the bell to ring to be dismissed. Oh, yea. This was trained hard in me. And somehow it was implied that if you are a great student, it will equal to success in life. And how did that work out?

Well if you were anything like me, reality hit me like a ton of bricks. Reality isn’t predictable like a dismissal bell. If you wait for someone to give you direction and guidance, you could be waiting your entire life! Yet this is how you are processed, and then graduation comes along, and it’s either sink or swim. Imagine being an exceptional student but just to find out you’re not good enough to navigate the real world. A real FAILURE.

Seth Godin’s popular Stop Stealing Dreams TED talk explains precisely this. The alternative is to learn to solve interesting problems.

I will take responsibility and say that it wasn’t 100% the failed school system’s fault, but I know now that I shouldn’t feel like a failure. I also started questioning about higher education and those fancy college degrees. I wondered if all that debt is even worth the trouble.

After knowing this bit of information, I couldn’t tell myself that I’m not “good enough” anymore because I suck at life or because I didn’t go to a fancy school. So I couldn’t use that excuse anymore.

The 10,000-hour rule

In Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, he explains that people who are exposed to 10,000 hours of preparation become the best at what they’re good at versus innate talent.

There is a misconception of this 10,000-hour rule, that as long as you put in those hours, you become world-class at whatever you’re aiming to do. There is a Freakonomics radio episode that talks about this.

The 10,000-hours must specifically be hours in which you are continually learning. You cannot mindlessly put in the hours and hope for the best. This also means odds are against you if you compare yourself to artists who have already put in their 10,000-hours.

If I haven’t put in my hours, I can’t be complaining that I’m not good enough, because “good enough” comes from post-10,000-hours. And so then it’s all comes down to grit. I haven’t put any grit in yet.

So I couldn’t use that excuse anymore.

Parenting/ Teaching

There is a type of parenting/ teaching style that gets spread to children, and it is meant well, but not thought through – like the “I’m Proud of You” comment.

Again, I understand the adults mean well, but who are we doing all this work for anyways? This stems back to the Factory Model Educational System. Seeking approval from an authority figure. Or maybe it is because humans are social animals, and they need to be socially accepted to survive. It is hard-wired into our Lizard Brain.

In any case, I was more-or-less affected by this, in my youth, by watching friends of mine seeking approval from the nearest coach, teacher, or parent. And so I deemed it socially appropriate to do so as well.

Looking back, I realized that it was a culturally different scenario than what my parents were accustomed to ( both being children who grew up post-WWII in Japan where I’m sure, ‘parenting’ was abysmal), and so it took a long time before I realized I was barking up the wrong tree. These days I try not to get too worked up over what other people think. Analysis paralysis is all too real.

But I know full-grown adults that still look for approval. They all just want to know they’re doing a good job. It’s addicting. It gives reassurance. But what happens when you run out of people for approval? What if you stop getting approval? Are you not good enough because somebody decided that for you? You can’t blame anybody else.

So I couldn’t use that excuse anymore.

It all comes back to you to decide, and we already know we can’t say “I’m not good enough” until we’ve reached our 10,000-hours. So get in your hours and then decide. Oh and even then, there’s no guarantee of this big vague term called ‘success’. You’ll just be really good at something. Until then, stop complaining. It’s part of the creative process. Get to work.

End self-talk recording.

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