I took a workplace assessment once to determine my strengths and weaknesses and find better ways to integrate them with the strengths and weaknesses of my teammates. When the results came back, there was one thing that stood out about my strengths, and that was that nothing stood out. There were a number of areas where I scored well enough, but nothing I was particularly good at, though I know myself there are definitely things I’m particularly bad at. The assessor hastened to reassure me that this can be an advantage. I’m a good all-arounder, passably good at a lot of things, even if I’m not excellent at any of them. That’s fine, and I see his point, but in that case I’d at least like to be an excellent all-arounder. Like the best all-arounder around, you know, if I can.Continue reading What If I’m Not The Best At Anything?
The empty seats at the table filled up with people I didn’t know. The lady next to me struck up a conversation and as the usual questions went back and forth, I learned that she had studied drama at university. Since she raised the subject, I mentioned that I had enjoyed being involved in a local musical society. She wanted to know what parts I had played. We talked about spotlights and becoming someone else on stage, and then dinner came and the conversation widened to include other people and topics. It wasn’t until later that someone told me, “She was on the West End.”Continue reading The Actress Who Didn’t Tell Me About Herself
In the year of our Lord, 1858, the Shirleys of Lough Fea boasted that their estate house contained the largest room in County Monaghan. The honour was not secure, however—a nearby Baron, Lord Rossmore, was determined to claim it for himself. He extended the drawing room of Rossmore Castle to steal the distinction from them. But the rivalry wasn’t over. Lord Rossmore had to extend the drawing room five times to stay ahead of the Shirleys’ relentless construction, and in the end his drawing room still came in second to their Great Hall.
Even though it lacked the largest room in the county, no one could deny that Rossmore Castle was beautiful, built as it was on top of a hill with a panoramic view and 117 windows to see it through (the Shirleys only had 96). Its towers and turrets looked as if they had been lifted straight out of a fairytale illustration, even more so when there was a party on, and there were a lot of parties. The guest lists were star-studded as well—the Prince of Wales was a personal friend of Lord Rossmore. But, as can happen in fairytales, the castle vanished. This had more to do with dry rot than magic, but the effect was the same.Continue reading The Invisible Castle
I know. It doesn’t have the same ring to it, does it? “Follow your dreams” sounds a lot better. It’s the message of Disney princesses and rock stars and pretty much everyone else. And a lot of times the princesses are right. A lot of times we really do need encouragement to keep going towards a goal. It’s good advice.
Except when it isn’t.Continue reading Some Dreams Need To Die
I have a greater appreciation for my mother, now that my children are learning piano. When I was a kid, it never crossed my mind that my mom might not thoroughly enjoy hearing the same simple songs played poorly over and over again. She made me practice, so she must want to hear it, right? I thought I was the only reluctant one, until my own children started playing those same simple songs, with the same mistakes, over and over again. It’s not always been very pleasant. And yet I really do like to hear it – not because of the repetitive wrong notes, but because of what they are leading to. Now that a few years have passed, the things my children play on the piano are much nicer to hear. If they keep at it, the things they’ll play in a few more years will be even better. It’s the only way forward. No one masters piano overnight. And what’s true for the instrument is also true for life:
If you want to do something well, the best way to start is by doing it poorly. Continue reading Some Things Are Worth Doing Poorly
If you believe, you can achieve.
Evidently, if you believe hard enough and long enough, you can even fly – that’s what I heard on the radio. Metaphorically, this is encouraging. Practically, it’s still annoyingly impossible, no matter how strongly I imagine myself butterflying above the ground. The kind of advice that tells us we can be anything we want to be is meant to be inspiring, to encourage us to try difficult things, and help us push through to reach our goals even when it’s hard. The slogans sound so great and fit so well in songs and movies and books and memes and posters that it’s easy to overlook that one pesky little drawback of how none of them are true.