She gave me a C.
It was one of the best things a teacher has ever done for me.
You see, school came easily to me. I was always a straight-A student with little effort.
So you can imagine my shock and dismay when my 10th grade English teacher handed back my writing assignment with a big red “C”. I was so devastated and confused (the arrogance, right?), I went back to my teacher and asked how on earth I had managed to get such a low grade on my assignment.
Here’s what she told me: “This isn’t your best work.”
And you know? She was right. Oh, it was fine. It was probably a decent assignment overall, but based on what she knew of me (and what I think she actually saw in me and was trying to draw out…), she thought I could have done better.
A bit annoyed and determined to prove I deserved a better grade, I went back to the library that week and spent hours poring over the assignment. Re-thinking the premise, tweaking it, editing until it was just so. By the time I was finished, I knew deep down that it was a vast improvement. And whether my teacher agreed or not, I was proud of my hard work and the final outcome.
I handed it in, and was surprised when she approached me at the end of class the next week, edited assignment in hand. At the top was an A+.
She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Now this. This is what you’re capable of. Don’t forget it.”
I never have.
How a high school writing assignment relates to my work today…
These past six months, I’ve felt in over my head more than a couple times.
In one of our businesses, I’ve been learning new skills, taking on different roles and responsibilities, and trying my hand at things that felt (and often still feel) foreign to me.
They’ve included creating compelling sales pages, doing extensive amounts of copywriting, writing a video script and then directing that video. Even more recently, I’ve launched into yet another unique venture that has me expanding my horizons even further (secrets, secrets… I’ll announce closer to the new year :).
The point is, as entrepreneurs, we’re required to wear a lot of hats, and try our hand at things that might not come easily.
As a blogger, for example, it’s not enough to be good at writing. You also have to learn to use an email service and create drip campaigns, set up affiliate management software, do bookkeeping and accounting, create graphics, edit HTML and CSS, hire people and manage a team, do interviews on podcasts, lead live webinars, build and maintain social media platforms, reach out to corporate sponsors, create and implement strategic marketing campaigns.
That’s just an example of some of the skills I’ve had to acquire over 8 years as a blogger. The specific skills aren’t actually the point. It’s different for everyone, depending on what your business model is.
The point is, we can’t rest on our laurels.
To keep growing as entrepreneurs, to keep improving our business and brand, to keep adapting to a changing marketplace, acquiring skills outside of our toolbox (not to mention, our comfort zone) is a necessity.
Many times these past six months, I’ve wanted to cry “uncle!”. Just give up out of exhaustion and overwhelm. Slam my laptop shut. Cry in frustration. Concede defeat. And then go eat a lot of chocolate (well, okay, I did that part anyways).
And I could have. Just like that high school writing assignment, walking away was an option.
I could have become a victim, blaming my poor grade on my teacher (or in this instance, dismissing the work as too hard, too different, not my skill set or any other number of excuses). Or I could given up and chosen to accept mediocrity and “good enough” as a reasonable modus operandi.
But oh, I am so glad I didn’t do either.
Was it really, stinking hard, to do things that challenged me so deeply? You bet. Did I still cry a lot of tears and have days when I let the negative thoughts engulf me? I’ll confess, I did.
I’m thankful for a husband who didn’t let me stop there. Who listened to me and loved me and bought me another coffee or told me to go for a walk and take a break. Who encouraged me and told me he believed in me, and was still willing to be honest when my first (or second or third) draft sucked and I needed to go back to the drawing board, again.
I’m thankful I didn’t let the struggle define me or stop me. I pushed through, with a mixture of success, some things I would do differently next time, and a ton of lessons learned.
Best of all, I came out with a fresh belief in my own abilities. You see, I’m more capable than I knew.
And I don’t want to forget it.