The truth is, you can't be good at everything.
The sooner you stop trying to be, the sooner you can get better at the things that matter to you.
From my own experience, this is a hard lesson to learn. This isn't to say you can't be good at many things — Ringo Starr is a great drummer and a surprisingly good painter. Tiger Woods is a savvy businessman in addition to being the greatest thing ever to happen to golf.
Trying to be great at everything will put you in a full-body cast, too.
I'm currently trying to become a better illustrator, designer, writer, cook and person.
If five things seems ambitious, well, it is.
Still, it's nothing compared to also wanting to become a good cartoonist, web-designer, comic-book inker, lock-picker, painter, harmonica player, computer hacker, Rock Band 2 drummer, actor, special-effects artist, reporter, video editor, Mac programmer and at least 10 more aspirations to embarrassing to list for someone past grade-school age.
I know how a list like that can weigh you down with the feeling of impending failure, embarrassment, and frustration. I also know how making whittling down that list to the meaningful things can bring you clarity and purpose.
Years ago, I saw a the following sticky note on a co-worker's desktop ...
A man should be able to:
- Pilot a ship
- Lead a battalion charge
- Give the perfect haircut
- Deliver a baby
- Write a poem
- Compose a symphony
- Navigate by the stars
- Pan for gold
- Fire a gun
- Run a mile in under 15 minutes
- Train a dog
- Paint a mural
- Cook the perfect soufflé
- Judge a fine wine
- Sculpt the Venus de Milo
- Farm his own land
- Recite the complete works of Shakespeare
- Play the guitar
Soon after he told me he believed all that, he had a nervous breakdown and went into early retirement — true story.
You need to decide where to put your time, energy and passion. Even your wildest dreams can become more achievable once you realize that's what you want to do. You'll find that choosing your passions and sticking to them can put your life into much sharper focus.
Don't get me wrong, I believe you should try everything that interests you and learn about everything you can about everything else. Just don't try to do it all at once or at the same level of intensity
If you want to be a better cook, don't sign up for a sculpting class. You'll only be frustrated that your cooking skill aren't improving and you'll be years away from carving your own head out of marble.
If you want to draw better, then draw. If you want to write better, then spend your time writing.
Don't let yourself get battered around by unconsidered aspirations. Focus on whatever you want, but you have to choose where you want to be better. Maybe you'll even end up being great.