I believe the fruits of your labor aren’t always visible. For that matter, when you do find fruit it might not be the kind you can just pluck off a branch and take with you.
I’ve learned this after years of feeling like the thing I’ve decided to devote my life to, is something I’m not very good at.
The craft I’ve spent time and effort honing is playing the drums. When I made the decision to get serious about it, I played with a musician who, after five minutes of jamming looked at me, laughed a little and said “You aren’t very good. You really should play more.”
“I never said I was good…” I managed to mutter, and then immediately felt ashamed for having admitted to practicing a 2-3 hours a day. After that I spent two years having a series of bad musical interactions. I began waiting for the the critical blow that would completely destroy my sense of self-worth as a musician, grinding it into a pulp and keeping me from ever playing again. What If i was just no good?
And then I realized something about myself: I’ve never cared much for anything I’ve been told I have aptitude for.
While I got A’s in English in school, I decided to go to college to pursue a Chemistry major, because in the year I spent after high school deciding what to do with my life I became enamored with science magazines, journals, and discarded text books I found at garage sales. And I must have succeeded because by the time I graduated everyone knew me as their scientist friend.
After I graduated I became a bicycle mechanic, after my senior year roommate brought home a road bike and I became so obsessed with cycling that I took up mechanics. But the first day in the shop I realized that it was a lot harder than I thought, and after a year of angry customers, and having discussions with my supervisor about quality, I believed i just wasn’t any good. And yet all my friends still come to me with bicycle questions, and I’m fully able to build and repair my own bike.
It took me a while but I’ve completed the other half of the sentence that I muttered two years ago. “I never said I was very good, all I said was that I liked to practice. In fact, I love it.”
After I admitted that out loud I finally began feeling success as a player. But more importantly, I realized that spending time doing something you love is like converting time to gold, your love for it shines through whatever mistakes you may make however often. And if you do something you love long enough, and simply out of love, well, you may have just found that elusive reward that we call the fruits of labor.
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