Figuring out the thing you’re meant to do, the holy trifecta of ambition, talent and personality, it takes experimentation. Some people get lucky and find it when they’re young. Other people, it takes years. I’m reminded of The Moon and Sixpence, a brilliant book. The guy, I forget his name, is a banker in London and out of nowhere he feels that art is his calling. So he leaves his family and moves to Paris to paint. Fantastic, I love it.
But how do you know when you’ve found your thing? You keep getting better at it. In my life it was not always clear to me that writing would be my thing. I seriously experimented in two other areas.
For two years straight I produced electronic music with Fruity Loops. I made a hundred or a hundred and fifty songs. I DJed at parties and watched YouTube tutorials about how to sound like Skrillex. It was not an idle hobby, I worked on this shit more or less daily for twenty-four months. And at the end I had to concede it wasn’t for me. No matter what I tried, read, practiced, studied, whatever. My progress was that of a snail.
Later I took up online poker. I read all the books, even the dry mathy ones. I played every day and filled entire notebooks with analysis of my winning and losing hands. I spent hours watching pros breakdown their hands. I dove into the game with passion and after six months I was certain that I was worse then when I started.
The music, I had no natural talent. The poker, I was not emotionally cool enough to be good. They just didn’t work. But the writing… It’s the only thing in my life that I’ve continually improved upon. Taken six months at a time, since the day I started writing a decade ago I have never stopped improving. That is a simple fact. I still have, so, so, so far to go. But I’m closer.
Find that thing that you like to do and keep getting better at. Life is funny, there may be other things you actually enjoy more. Like I think that playing poker (and surfing) is just about the most fun a person can have on this earth. But it’s not always about fun. It’s about what works for you, what you can do well. Don’t force it, it won’t work. You won’t reach mastery, at least not happily (Andre Agassi’s Open is a enlightening discourse on what it is to reach mastery unhappily). Go out there and live. Try many things and when you find out what works, stick with it for life.