When you outdo yourself

Reach for the stars, so if you fall you land on a cloud.

Kanye West, Homecoming

Ladies and gentlemen, have you ever outdone yourself? Did something so perfectly that you thoroughly surprised yourself? Pinched yourself hard to make sure it wasn’t a dream? Then let out a painful yelp when you realized it wasn’t a dream?

I have.

Once when I was still a very new newbie in freelancing, I wrote an article that shocked EVERYONE who read it. By everyone, I mean even yours truly. My employer congratulated me, then a few days later she forwarded a message from the client who had bought the article. Ret me terro you, the praises were profuse.

It all felt good at first. Although it confirmed that I had what it took to be a writer, it also brought some pressure with it. I started asking myself serious questions. What if it was a fluke? Was I destined to be just another one hit wonder like the Baha Men? Or Chantelle of “Toklezea” fame?

In the ensuing days, I studied that article meticulously. I channelled my inner Sherlock Holmes, and his Watson, and we all got to work analyzing the hell out of it. We came up with various theories, not all scientific, that could explain what came to be known as “Steve “Sherlock Holmes” Mugo and the case of the ridiculously fantastic article”.

Pictured: Sherlock (left) and Watson

One of the theories put forward was that maybe I’d hit my head on a hard surface prior to typing that article. I’d heard of people suddenly becoming geniuses after suffering a concussion, even if they’d been thicker than a rock before. I’m not saying I was thaaaaat thick, but I wasn’t exactly the sharpest tool in the shed either. I was just “there”, somewhere in between…and I liked it that way.

Another theory was that maybe a spirit of perfection had possessed me just before I started writing that article. To that end, I considered calling a man or woman of God. I imagined how the conversation would go when I told them what my “problem” was…

“Hello, is that the wo/man of God? Oh, thank God! I was wondering if you could assist me with a somewhat peculiar issue. Do you by any chance perform exorcisms? Oh, you do? By the hundreds you say? Good, good, that’s very encouraging. Now to my peculiar issue. Do you by any chance perform REVERSE EXORCISMS?

Calm down wo/man of God, please allow me to explain. I suspect I’m possessed by a non-evil spirit that makes me type awesome articles. I was wondering if you could do something to ensure the spirit remains trapped in my body forever and ever and ever Amen? You don’t understand? Ok, let me explain in detai….hello? Hello?”.

Having grudgingly ruled out the presence of a benevolent spirit, I explored the next theory. What if I’d just been super inspired when I wrote that article? You know, like, I understood every instruction and followed it to the letter? Was operating on the same wavelength as the client? The Feng Shui in my room happened to be just right, and I became one with the article? What if the stars simply aligned that day?

The final theory was that maybe, just maybe, I was actually a good writer. That I never banged my head on any hard surface, never got possessed by an article writing spirit, and never had a one off inspiration. I was simply a good writer, who admittedly still had a lot to learn, but a promising one all the same.

Over the next few months I went on to write other articles. I got praised for some, while most got accepted without any fanfare. A few still got rejected. As far as I was concerned, I put in my best into every article, but the results varied. Anyway, I decided I would learn from each article. The ones that got praised would inspire me to write better, while the ones that got rejected would market my writing skills.

Yes, I believe even my rejected articles are still good enough. Some of the articles I’ve posted in my portfolio were rejected by clients, for one reason or another. I won’t discard them because I believe I gave them my best shot, depending on the instructions I was given. Whatever the outcome, I’m growing more confident with every article I write.

I’m not being arrogant when I say I believe in less than a year I’ll have joined the league of some of the highest paid writers in the world. I’m that confident in my ability. I no longer judge my writing skills by individual articles, but by the cumulative effort that I put into improving my expertise.

So next time you do something perfectly, you could react in either of two ways:

You could go in front of a mirror, stare at your reflection in disbelief and ask it “Sir/Ma’am, are YOU really the one who did THAT!!?? Don’t lie now, speak the truth!!”

Or you could count it as another feather in your cap, and set out to gather more.

Outdo yourself this year. That’s an order.

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