Much as I hate to admit it, I’ve never really been a try-er. If something comes easily to me or I only have to put in a moderate, not-totally-unenjoyable work, I’ll do it. When I encounter anything I’m not immediately decent at doing (or something that is out of my control in some way, I find myself putting in a minimal amount of effort, doing what’s needed to get things done (if I even do it at all). During a conversation with a friend a few months back, I was pondering why I do this. Why do I just not try at certain things? Or, when I do try, why do I not try particularly hard?
I could be wrong (self-evaluation always comes with the risk of being deeply flawed), but I believe it’s because I’m afraid. If I try my best and fail, I’ll be disappointed or upset. If I don’t try (or half-ass try), I can always tell myself, Of course you didn’t succeed — you didn’t even really try! It’s an odd act of self-preservation, this not-trying thing. I do it, I think, so I don’t have to deal with whatever emotions might arise if I were to try my absolute best and fail.
This, as you might imagine, is not an ideal way to live. Yes, I’ve managed to do well in certain areas and find fulfillment in many of the things I do, but what am I missing out on by not trying? And what would it be like if I actually started trying, putting my full effort into whatever I do?
It was back in the early autumn when I was having this conversation with my friend, and I decided then and there that I was going to try as hard as I could with my upcoming book, Grow Through It. It’s not that I hadn’t tried with previous books — obviously, I did. But I didn’t push myself to a level of trying that felt borderline uncomfortable. (This sounds like a bad thing, but when it comes to trying, it’s actually good to push yourself a bit and not settle for what comes easily.)
And so I did. I pushed myself harder than I had before. I perfected. I re-read. I redrew entire pages if they didn’t feel like they were working. (In the past, I might have thought, Yeah, it could be better, but whatever, it’s fine!) Could I have done more? Maybe? Of course I’ll always feel that way because without time restrictions and deadlines (and things like sleep and maintaining somewhat of a social life), there’s always a possibility that more could be done. But I know for certain: I tried harder than I’ve tried before. I will not be able to look at this book at say, Eh, well, I didn’t really try, so who cares if it’s not doing well..
I put everything I could into that book, and, regardless of how well it’s received or the total sales (it debuts in early October! yay!), I feel differently about it than I do about other projects I’ve worked on. Even if no one else loves it, I love it. I tried.
Of course, the point of this post isn’t to rave about my excitement for Grow Through It (though I am super excited for it!). It’s to bring up the issue of trying. Maybe you’re nothing like me. Maybe you try your hardest at everything — your job, your hobbies, your relationships, etc. But I bet there are a lot of people out there who’re just like me, who hold back on trying because they’re afraid of failing. I bet some of you don’t try as hard as you know you could because you worry that the end result won’t reflect the effort you put in.
But I’m here to tell you, as a (former?) non-try-er, that it doesn’t matter. There’s value in the trying itself, regardless of the outcome. The cliche “it’s all about the process” exists for a reason. Sure, the end result will matter to some degree. Of course I want my book to do well and my hard work to pay off. But, in the process of all this trying, I’ve gained something really valuable: more self-respect. Sure, trying is scary. But there’s something so powerful and motivating about actually putting in the work. There’s a magic to putting yourself out there, win or lose, and giving it your all. It feels good.
So, if you’re like me and tend to half-ass try (or altogether avoid) things that are tough, I hope this inspires you to give something you really care about your very best shot. It might not work out, true, but it might, and wouldn’t it be kind of cool to see what happens if you really put everything into it? Wouldn’t it be something to have worked your absolute hardest and be rewarded for it, even if that reward is simply feeling more certain about what you’re capable of?
Trying is scary, but you should do it. I’m going to continue trying not to half-ass my trying (ha!). Like, recently I was nominated for a Shorty Award in Art (omgomgomg — I still can’t believe I’m writing those words!). A (big) part of me wants to be like, Don’t promote it and ask people to vote for you — that seems desperate and you shouldn’t care so much about something like an award; you’re just feeding your ego. But that’s the scared part of me. The other (braver!) part of me is like, You know what? I want to win. Wanting to win an award for something I’ve worked really hard on doesn’t make me a bad person. I’m choosing to listen to that second voice. I’m choosing to ask for votes, to promote myself, and, scary as it is, to hope I actually win.
If I don’t win, I’ll be fine. Just like I’ll be fine if Grow Through It isn’t the smashing success I dream it will be. But I know now that I don’t want my fear to hold me back from going after things I want. I likely developed this “don’t try too hard / don’t act like you care” attitude in my angsty teen years, but it’s high time I let that shit go. I do care. I’m still scared to try, but that doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do it. That fear inside my head is just static. It’s muffling the sounds of what I really want, and this year I’m choosing to turn the volume down.
I want 2020 to be the year of trying. I want it to be the year of giving a shit and not being afraid of expressing my desires. It’s okay to want things. It’s okay to work hard and hope for success. I’ll leave you with this:
If you’ve been half-assing something you really care about, stop letting the fear win, and start trying instead. See what happens…
Also, vote for me in the Shorty Awards! I really do want to win (even though I still feel embarrassed writing that, even after this massive blog-post-turned-pep-talk! *eye roll*), and every vote counts. You can vote once a day until February 20, 2020. Thank you so much to everyone who has already voted, and thank you in advance to everyone who votes after reading this!