Last week, I shared some thoughts about the balance between having proper equipment and putting in the time and effort needed to hone your skills, and the weight of their respective roles in achieving your desired level of excellence in whatever it is that you do.

If you don’t have three spare minutes to read them, here’s an abridged version: If you practice enough, anything can be the best tool ever.

Aside from questions about what tools I use, there’s another thing I hear from time to time that is somehow flattering, humbling, and bothersome all at the same time.

The exact words may vary, but the sentiment is consistently along the lines of, “I wish I had half of your skill.”

Now let me be clear, I couldn’t be happier that some people enjoy my work as much as they do. It’s a great affirmation that the values I try to keep alive in each project are good and worth sticking to.

The issue that I take with this compliment starts to become clearer in the context of my response. To one back-patter, I replied with simply, “So did I, a year ago.”

If you practice enough, anything can be the best tool ever.

Very few people that do anything worth others giving a shit about were born with the talent to do it. Most of us are only innately gifted with things like anxiety issues or a fucked up cowlick or something. Everything else, we have to work really hard for.

So when I decided to try my hand at lettering a couple years ago now, it was rough. Like, really rough. I hadn’t really sketched much to speak of for years, and I knew little to nothing about the rules and concepts of typography or calligraphy.

I wished I could execute some of the dope lettering pieces that some of the amazing artists I admired were cranking out. That was a big, lofty wish. It wasn’t long before I realized that beyond birthday cake candles and shooting stars, wishes really hadn’t done much for me in my life.

So I stopped wishing, and started setting some fucking goals. I hunted exhaustively for the skills I needed to learn to get to where I wanted to go and once I found them, I attacked them relentlessly until they became habits.

“It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.” — Eleanor Roosevelt

I talked a lot about this in my Creative Mornings talk here in Pittsburgh back in May. I wish you could’ve been there, but since that does nothing for either of us in changing whether you were or weren’t, here’s a video of the whole thing.

Wishes are cool for some things, I suppose. A lot of people wish they could win the lottery or punch their driveling asshole co-worker in the face without losing their job, but since there really aren’t any solid roadmaps for taking control and making those things happen, wishing does seem to be the best solution there.

Otherwise, your wishing is probably one of three things:

  • A complete waste of the time you could be spending growing and progressing
  • A lie you tell yourself to make you feel better about not caring enough or being too lazy to pursue your dreams
  • A poorly thought-out thing you say sometimes to compliment people that kind of just discounts all that they’ve gone through to get where they are

The next time you find yourself wishing for something, ask yourself if there’s anything you can do to make it a reality. If not, dream on, little dreamer.

If there is, pack a lunch and get to work.