Do you ever have feelings of complete inadequacy? What about outright bitterness, envy and jealousy about how damn good someone is at something?
Last night, I was reading Malcolm Gladwell’s book about spur of the moment judgements and gut decisions, ‘Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking‘. It’s fantastic: a blend of entertaining social science and tricky concepts masterfully illustrated with evocative stories and analogies. It’s written in this perfectly light, intelligent yet conversational tone that seems to hit every note just right.
Here’s a passage to give you a taster:
“We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it…We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible an depending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgements and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.”
I’m thoroughly enjoying it. But as I was burning through the pages, I started to get this sick feeling in my stomach. Inadequacy starts to bubble up inside me. How is this guy’s work so sublime? I started to think about my comparatively feeble attempts at putting ideas together: suddenly it all felt amateurish, childlike, clumsy.
What’s the point in keeping this thing up? Why would anyone read my work when they could read his – or Orwell’s, or Vonnegut’s, or anyone of the innumerably more talented people than me for that matter? Should I just shut The Ink down and have done with it?
The answer is an emphatic no. It’s good to feel this way. Gladwell has been writing for years. He’s been thinking deeply, conducting in-depth research, putting in hour after hour consistently… And that’s why he’s so dominant in his field. Why would I be making anything half as good as he is?
We’re all on a journey – a journey to make the best stuff we can, to live the best lives we can. But it’s going to take time. It’s going to take energy, and heartache, and sweat – all you have to give.
We’ve got to put our noses to the grindstone – and not look up for years.
Everyone starts somewhere. So start today. And keep going.