Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Stop Running the Wrong Race and Choose Your Own Craft

It’s demotivating to run a race and see everyone pulling ahead of you. I know because I’ve been there.

Stop Running the Wrong Race and Choose Your Own Craft

Recently, a friend shared with me a time when he was running a marathon and watching all these people pass him. He was frustrated, because he thought he was in good shape, but here he was, struggling to keep up with the pack.

Just as my friend was on the verge of calling it quits, someone came alongside him and said, “Run your own race.”

The curse of talented friends

Sometimes, I find myself despairing of my lack of abilities in certain areas. This is exacerbated by the fact that I know so many talented people.

For instance, I’m not as good a leader as Michael Hyatt or as good a marketer as Bryan Harris. I’m nowhere near as funny or as clever as Jon Acuff, and I wish I could write half as well as Ally Fallon does.

I remember one day, walking across the street while headed to my office thinking these things, wondering how I could possibly ever catch up the amazing abilities of my friends.

It just seemed so hopeless.

And if this was a game I couldn’t win, then what was the point? As a high achiever, I have to be competing in something I have a chance of winning. Otherwise, I’ll quit. Just ask my wife.

Anytime we break out a board game and I don’t see a clear path towards victory, I give up, saying, “This is a stupid game. Let’s play something else.”

Which really means: Let’s play something I can win.

Winning feels like everything

You can tell me that winning isn’t everything but that doesn’t fully register with a personality like mine. I have to see some kind of path towards success; otherwise, I lose motivation.

And so, while walking across the street that day, I heard a voice interrupt my thoughts, and say, “Don’t beat them at their own game. Beat them at yours.”

I don’t know if that was God or my subconscious or the musician on the street corner. But to whomever the voice belonged, I am grateful. Because it struck a chord.

Choose your craft

You can spend a lot of time feeling bad about not being successful in one area of life or another. And you can always find something to be bad at. Trust me. I do it often.

The challenge here is to choose your craft. Focus on the thing — or portfolio of things — that only you can do. And do it well, without apology or complaint.

And when you see someone excelling in an area that you would like to succeed at, remind yourself, “That’s not my craft.”

This applies to everything from writing in one genre, like literary fiction, and getting jealous at the success of another author in a completely different genre, like self-help, to feeling bad about not being a great marketer when your calling is something else entirely.

That’s not to say we can’t improve at certain skills we may need to succeed, but it should be a reminder to us that we can’t master everything.

At those times when you feel those twinges of envy, tell yourself, “I have already chosen my craft, and that’s not it.”

After all, you can only run one race at a time.

What is your craft? How can you claim it and avoid getting distracted by someone else’s craft? Share in the comments.

About Jeff Goins

I am the best-selling author of five books, including the national bestsellers The Art of Work and Real Artists Don't Starve. Each week, I send out a free newsletter with my best tips on writing, publishing, and helping your creative work succeed.

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