What do you do when you suck at everything?

Are you talented?

It was a Monday morning. I walked to school as usual with my confidence up to the roof. I never bothered getting breakfast because I can see my house from the schoolyard and sneaking out was an option during lunch time. It was on this day that Miss Flo decided to gather her students in a circle. When she stood behind each one of us, our job was to show our talent. Some whistled, some did animal sounds, some did back flips, some sang, everyone had a talent of some sort.

The teacher was going in a circle, and my two neighbors were starting to worry. I was starting to worry. The other kids laughed and regaled enjoying the fun activity, but we drew paler than an old man's extra set of teeth as our turn approached.

The teacher stood behind my left comrade. His eyes grew wide and silence followed. Suddenly, he looked straight at the teacher and crossed his eyes so deep that I thought they would never come back. Everyone laughed. I laughed, and my tears started coming out. Everyone had a talent and I didn't. The teacher looked at me as my tears grew thick and mucus drooped out of my nose like dried broccoli soup.

"I don't have a talent", said the ugly boy. She took a Kleenex out of her pocket and wiped my face. "Of course you have a talent, can you whistle?" and I nodded. "Can you whistle your name?" I did. "Can you whistle everybody's name?" I did and all the kids laughed.

Today, I can whistle, but I only ever do so in front of people who are worst than me. I can assure you that there is nothing of a talent in my whistling. And whistling is only one of the things I am not good at.

Today we have the Internet, which is a certified proof that whatever you do, there are thousands of people who are far better than you. For a kid in the nineties it was fine to be bad at something, because unless there was a special documentary on your local channels you wouldn't see all the other amazing people in existence. Today, you have no choice but to embrace the fact that there is a cat that is a better pianist than you will ever be.

But I'm not simply going to depress you. Let me tell you something. I'm a terrible programmer, yet I have worked on website that have millions of users. And I am not trying to brag, I am responsible for countless hours of black out on the websites I worked on. Code that totally made sense in my head was fiercely rejected and I didn't even understand why. At least not right away. Sometimes they had to repeat the same thing over and over before I got it.

I dropped out of college after years of floating from class to class. I have been hiking for 4 years and I still struggle at mile 4. I've owned a guitar for years now, but I cannot play a full song. In 2014 I read only two books. Every graphic design jobs I applied to didn't respond. The one that did, didn't respond after they asked me to send them a sample design.

Sad kid from pixabay

In the past few years what I did the most was programming and I have to say it's the field I have the most experience in. But I still struggle with programming. I can't keep up with all the new JavaScript framework that keep coming out. I have friends that do. There was a time I thought if I had one talent it would be JavaScript. If you scour Stackoverflow hard enough, you will find one of my comments where I claim to be an expert.

Today I feel less and less like an expert in JavaScript. I have no idea how people create amazing 3d graphics entirely in JavaScript, the same language I use to pop an alert box when you forget to fill up the password field.

But there is also another thing I stopped considering. Talents.

I don't know what my talent is and to tell you the truth I don't really care about it. This is not a defeated feeling, but if you take the word talent in its popular connotation, you won't go very far. It's like winning the lottery. You sit down and you wait for something you are naturally good at show up.

if (Math.random() < .01){

Obviously there are people that are amazingly good at what they do at a very young age. But we are not all like that. And even for the talented, the story doesn't end after the TV show's allocated time passes. They have to live the rest of their life, taking chances, trying different things to stay alive.

If I kept waiting for something I am naturally good at to show up, I would probably still be waiting. Maybe one day I will find out that I am an exceptional unicyclist. But to tell you the truth, what the hell am I gonna do with that?

Instead, here are the things I have tried to do. I keep on hiking and I met few people who are just as bad as me but enjoy it. I keep playing guitar and sometimes get to jam with people are far better than me. I keep making a living as a programmer even though I don't know how to write a sorting algorithm without looking it up. I help students with their graphic design for their mobile app despite my own work being rejected.

My JavaScript skills allowed me to charge companies prices that I am too embarrassed to divulge. And all this because in first grade I managed to whistle my classmates names and made them laugh.

Winehouse in the streets

Instead of waiting for a talent, the best thing to do is do those things you are bad at. You only suck at the things you just started doing. After a few years, you will still think you are terrible at it, but you will know so much more than the day you started.

So to answer the question, "What do you do when you suck at everything?" If you never rode a bike, it's fair to say you don't know how to. But if you ride and you fall, you just figured out how to sit on it. The the riding and not falling will come eventually if you keep trying. So pick something you are not good at and learn a little more about it. Don't stress. We are all bad at the beginning. The goal is to suck a little less everyday.

Expect to find your natural talent the same way you expect to win the lottery. And the lottery is a game for suckers. Just try to learn a little more about the world you live in everyday and you will be sure to survive.


Omotola-gb :

Feels like most programmers have experienced this to some degree. That's the price we pay for being in the Internet age. Resources and opportunities abound, but competition is fierce.

Ibrahim Diallo :

@omotola-gb You are right, competition is very fierce. But the good news is you don't have to compete.

It's very easy to be intimidated by large applications as a programmer. I remember when I started exploring jQuery source code, of course I started with the minified code cause I didn't know any better. I thought if I wanted to be a good programmer I would have to write something just as complex. And no you can't write minified code, or at least you won't remember what it does the next day.

When I stopped competing with it, I discovered the normal version and I embraced it instead of just complaining that it makes people lazy.

Will Cate :

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.

Heather Fey :

But I can't whistle.

Ibrahim :

Hi @heather,

certainly after so many years, I can't whistle either. But does it matter?

What we should do is find something we like and just do it. Even if we are really bad at it. With time, we are bound to get better at it, than when we started.

Hariram Narayanan :

Man you inspired me alot ! You are such a motivational speaker! Keep making such articles ! You just raised my spirits! I'm fired up I owe you so much!

ibrahim :

I'm glad it inspired you Hariram!

swg :

May I add, that I think you have to find something you are //constantly interested// in. It doesn't matter if you are good at it or not. And in my opinion, you are better off sucking at first. The better your chances, discovering a whole new world - at least for you.

Let's hear your thoughts

For my eyes only