Strive to Challenge Yourself
As I was searching for inspiration in the large black hole we call the internet, I stumbled across Dr. Laura Otis’ article, Try Something Hard and found myself gaining a new perspective on the importance of challenging yourself in life.
I thought the most interesting part of her article was the mention of professionals describing how the required skills for their job were the skills they found the most challenging when they were younger. A neuroscientist struggled with mathematical concepts. A famous translator struggled with reading when he was younger.
My first thought after reading these stories was, “why then, would you pursue a career that is completely surrounded by the concepts that you struggled with?”. This lead me to realize the very point Dr. Otis was try to make; we often accept the notion that the areas we find challenging are the areas in which we are destined to fail.
As a child, I always struggled with math. I would leave grade school crying, frustrated and feeling as though I was stupid for not understanding what my teacher made out to be simple concepts. I was told by a math teacher that because I struggled, I would never become a mathematician or an engineer. From a young age, I was already being conditioned to believe that failure represents something negative and we should feel ashamed and just give up! I became so frustrated with failure. I began to believe I would never improve on the skills I struggled with.
I have thought about the concept of failure a lot in my life, and after reading Dr. Otis’ article, I now realize that I need to embrace the difficulty that is sometimes inevitable in our jobs, or even, in our lives, and not resort to quitting when things become challenging.
Many of us go through this deliberation of quitting in our minds. We struggle with this constant battle from childhood through adulthood.
As a teenager until the age of twenty, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I am aware that this is a common thought for those my age, as we are all searching to find our passion and rid ourselves of the uncertainty that constantly overwhelms us.
My father, trying to provide guidance, recommended that I should, “just get a business degree.” As an individual who is terrified of anything that could possibly relate to math, I shuddered at the thought. With limited choices and very uncertain direction, I decided to do it anyways. I mean, it’s only four years of my life, right? Well, you guessed it. With this terrible outlook on life, I headed to university.
My first year in business school was intimidating! I found myself taking courses like microeconomics, financial and managerial accounting, and statistics. These highly academic and mathematical oriented courses made me tear up a few times and second guess what I was doing. But logical thinking kicked in and I started to educate myself on the flexibility and versatility a business degree had to offer.
In my second year, I stumbled upon marketing. In the past, I envisioned marketing to be littered with men in suits and women in fancy blouses. In addition to their expensive suits were briefcases, Starbucks coffee, and they were always “talking business.” I often thought this was not the life for me. Like, come on. I’m an indie rock alternative listener, I like to wear clothes from the thrift store and I don’t really drink coffee.
So, where does marketing even fit into my lifestyle? The easiest way I can explain it is with the saying, “don’t knock it until you try it.” After taking a second course in marketing, I had this realization that it wasn’t all about selling products in a blazer. I noticed an emphasis on design, information, branding, and copywriting. It had nothing to do with what I wore, who I was, or what I believed, but what I felt most passionate about.
As I enrolled myself in more marketing classes, I realized there was still a little bit of math that I would encounter, but I could handle it because I had finally found my passion.
I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you’re a mathematician, marketer, journalist, [fill-in-the-blank] and you find your work challenging and sometimes equipped with literal blood, sweat and tears - don’t stop! Don’t stop exploring your passion. If you love what you do, you already have the tools to overcome the next challenge or hurdle in your life.
I once told a classmate, “I hate marketing, but at the same time, I love it.” This is how we should all view our work; we hate it at times, but we really do love it and we wouldn’t know what we would do without it.
If you’re looking for a career, find something that you love. If you find it difficult and challenging, hold onto it, and don’t let go.
Accept failure, cry when you need to, and most importantly, if you love it, get back up and accept the challenge.