Confidence is volatile. It can take a lifetime to build, and it can vanish in an instant.
Too often, we compare ourselves to others and hold our shortcomings to their successes. We maintain the foolish belief that to succeed, we have to be perfect. The best. Some people literally work themselves to death in this pursuit of apotheosis.
But you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to be scrappy. The following is one of my favorite quotes of all time:
“You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you.”
Jim Butcher is probably not the first human to articulate this concept, but I think he deserves credit. After all, the adage is central in his advice for budding writers, reflecting on the personal challenges and imperfections that he overcame to become a successful author.
Jim says the most important thing to get published is to “keep going.” You don’t have to be J.K. Rowling or George R.R. Martin to break through, but you must outlast your competition. You have to pitch over and over again while the guy next to you loses hope after one rejection. You have to improve your prose while someone gives up because it’s too hard.
This mindset isn’t exclusive to writing, either. It applies to everything in life.
For example, I was part of a culinary team at an award-winning hotel for two years. I started as a lowly prep cook, and ended up supervising the prime-time dinner shift. Here’s a secret: I had a very flawed game. I wasn’t as fast a line cook as others, and other banquet supervisors were better at handling volume than me. But I was scrappy. I wasn’t the most talented, but my bosses knew I was reliable and wouldn’t go down in a fight. And I reaped the rewards of that.
Odds are, you aren’t in a solo race against Usain Bolt. Instead, you’re probably in a marathon against the field. When others sprint ahead of you, don’t get discouraged. Keep your pace, and pass them when they burn out.
Stop focusing on your imperfections, and ask yourself whom you’d rather be: The fastest runner on Earth, or the one who got away from the bear?