I remember the first time I tried to draw something accurately. I say “accurately” because before that moment over 13 years ago, I had doodled, sketched, and etched random things without real meaning. One Christmas, my sister gave me an art journal with a canvas on the front cover. She was envisioning my drawings with potential, though they were merely in existence because of occasional pastime boredom. I painted a horse on the cover, but the whole picture turned out horrible. The proportions were off, the background didn’t match, and the horse’s eye turned into a giant blotched mark. I cried, ashamed that when I actually tried to make something the way I envisioned it, my hand-eye coordination wasn’t up for the challenge.
This was confusing because I thought I was great at art, only to realize that I wasn’t.
This memory came back afresh when watching the Nike ad below. This athletic brand commonly spotlights famous sports players performing in their niche excellently. Everything, from the sweat on the athlete’s brow to the color of their shoelaces, is usually portrayed effortlessly. But what about behind the scenes before anyone sees the potential in them? What about the sleepless nights of hard work at a sport or talent or job they aren’t good at, swamped by helplessness and surrounded by others who do it better? What pulls people through to make it to the end when they don’t even know what that end is?
Natural talent only takes someone so far. In fact, it might not be a determining factor. Technically, you could be good at most things, but the learning curve at the beginning of a skill separates those who are dedicated and those who do it as a pastime. I can’t imagine how many serves Serena Williams has practiced, or how many halfpipes Shaun White snowboarded down, or how many canvases Pablo Picasso painted. They stuck through it, even before it had a visible outcome.
I laugh at myself from those 13 years ago, not because I was naïve but because the confusion was the source of many important lessons down the road. I may have learned way more about art since then, but that doesn’t mean I’m perfect or that there is nothing else to learn. Being bad at something is a good reminder that the world doesn’t revolve around us. It also challenges us to practice harder or establish our goals in a certain field, whether a full-time job, major in college, or just a hobby. It can stay unimportant or become the biggest focus of our lives. Maybe your next biggest passion lies a blank canvas away from you. Go on and try something new!