The Ambition/Reality Gap

Like everyone else, I sometimes feel discouraged when I look at my work (here and elsewhere). I’ll think “this is crap, you’re never going to go anywhere in design.” Now before you say anything, let me say: I know, this is normal, I am at the very beginning of a long journey. If I work hard, every day, I can get somewhere. Maybe not fast, but that’s ok. It’s about the journey, not the destination! I really do believe that, it’s just that sometimes I have to remind myself of it.

The professor of my Saturday class at MassArt told us last week that this drawing class was just the equivalent of sticking your big toe into a lake. While that might seem overwhelming to some, I was encouraged because it meant that I had lots of time and experiences ahead of me to develop skills and find my place. I didn’t have to feel like I was supposed to know a whole slew of things already. And I feel like I’ve done pretty well with my first toe-dip.

When I was in high school, the coach of my swim team used to call us the “pop-tart generation” because we expected to see immediate results. He tried to instill in us some patience and persistence, slowly chipping away at our personal goals, measured in less-than-seconds.

I think about that term a lot, actually, because it really does sum up a lot about us. We start our days with pop-tarts and breakfast bars, not a sit-down meal of eggs, bacon, toast, juice, etc. (or whatever else – doesn’t have to be meat and dairy!), and likewise we expect everything else to be so easy. Our news and information is instant, accessible almost constantly via smart-phones and computers. I’m not even going to come up with more examples,  because I know your brain is already coming up with more for you… it’s a mindset that permeates our lives.

So it seems to me that when many people start something new that takes a lot of practice and practice and practice and…. practice, there is a temptation to say “to hell with it” and find something easier to do. I am willing to bet that you can think of either an example of that in your own life, or the life of someone you know.

We all look at someone that has mastered something and think “wow, they must be very talented,” and maybe they are, but they have spent countless hours of practice either way. I think most of us can achieve just about any skill if we just took the time to understand how it works and…. to practice.

I am going to be the first to say that that (practice) has never been my forte. I am unequivocally a standard model for the “pop-tart generation,” and I struggle with the starting and stopping of projects all the time (the ADD doesn’t help). That is what I think I am feeling I am up against when I think about the lake I am just dipping my toe into, that I plan to swim in one day. I have no choice but to commit myself to some kind of discipline, over an extended period of time, if I don’t want to sink.

On some level, is that really the challenge to myself that I am posing here?

For a really good reminder/reassurance that it is ok to be “crap” in the beginning, check out this article (which is what put this whole post topic in my head): It’s Normal to Take A While Before Your Work Is as Good as Your Ambitions.

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2 responses to “The Ambition/Reality Gap

  1. Hi Kara, I also am dealing with ADD… I believe Anthony has it and I will figure it all out this summer with Dr. appts, etc., but for now I have downloaded from “Real Subliminal” some soothing music to help him with concentration, it may be a hoax but it only costs about 11.00 and, well, the music itself is very relaxing, hoping the subliminal stuff helps him also. Anyway, thought you may want to check that out. Love ya, T.

    • Hey Aunt Ter, I just realized I didn’t back to you on this… sorry! (Can I blame my ADD? lol) So, do you mean “dealing with” as in you yourself? Or with Anthony? It’s really not a bad thing in some ways – they say that people with ADD are more creative and so forth. It just really pays to get some structure and organization in place early so that he can rely on that as he gets older. Thanks for the tip! Love you too!!

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