Stay With It, Stay In It, Keep At It

Oct 1, 2013

“The world bursts at the seams with people ready to tell you you’re not good enough. On occasion, some may be correct. But do not do their work for them. Seek any job; ask anyone out; pursue any goal. Don’t take it personally when they say ‘no’ — they may not be smart enough to say ‘yes.'”

-Keith Olbermann

Most Competition Quits Before Competing

Although a point that I recently mentioned in General Advice to a New Student in Game Design – which readers of monthly Advanced entries reasonably may have skipped – it’s applicable at all experience levels: the vast majority of people don’t ever really put themselves in position to even compete. For their dream jobs. For the audiences they’d like to reach. For festivals they’d like to participate in. For speaking opportunities they’d like to fill.

The upside to this is that as a consequence there’s often far less competition than we might be inclined to assume, since so many would-be competitors quit before or without competing.

Or Basically Quits While Competing

A common and important variation of this to be aware of is putting a halfhearted effort into something. To have tried for something but not really given it full attention or effort is a cowardly move, a defense mechanism so that when it doesn’t work out in our favor, we can tell ourselves it’s just because we didn’t really try, and that if we had really tried maybe it could have gone differently. Don’t give yourself that easy way out.

Actually being capable of doing something (as opposed to merely theoretically capable of it) includes an ability to consciously avoid that excuse, to fully take on all the complication and challenge that comes in the details of getting something done right. Simply by shedding that easy excuse of not really trying, the work can immediately rise to another level above that of those competitors who, despite technically participating, may as well not be because they aren’t seriously competing anyhow.

Embrace That as an Advantage

Do good work. Do the best work that you’re capable of doing. Consistently, so as to make a habit of it, because there’s no telling when or why it might count, where or when it might lead to something unexpected. Though you’re not able to affect what anyone else is or isn’t creating or putting into their creation, if or when your competition makes an error the only way you can be positioned to do well in their place is to have prepared and put in the work for it. Waiting for opportunity before beginning to act on it often doesn’t work, as by the time it appears it’s sometimes already too late. (But rather than be discouraged, think of the new work as preparation and positioning for future opportunities that may arise.)

If the shift toward this mode of operation is recent, there’s a good chance that the potential employer, player, judge, or whoever may not have enough evidence yet to trust that doing good work “consistently” is a part of it, so much as dumb luck. Nothing’s going to change their minds short of continuing to do it right and well, time and time again. So keep doing it right and well.

Or maybe they’ll immediately recognize the lasting spirit of the work.

Or maybe they’ll not be taking their role seriously enough to care to check.

Or maybe there’ll be a logistical error in your favor and you’ll get the job or app ranking or award or whatever by total accident. But of course that can only happen if you first put yourself and your work into the fray.

Don’t count yourself out before even trying. Don’t virtually count yourself out by only half trying. This applies to jobs, reaching potential audiences with your original work, festival/contest entries, speaking or writing gigs, and nearly anything else.

“Do not do their work for them.”

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