Be content.

Sometimes I’ll be talking to a friend about an idea for a play, a movie, a business or a song, and they’ll say to me, “You know you could totally make that happen, right?”

The question is as though they’re aware of my long-standing — yet occasionally amusing — relationship with self-doubt.

Do I know I could make it happen? Eh, I dunno. I’m confident I could put forth a good effort, but some of that beneficial cockiness has always eluded me. But I’ve always believed there’s never any harm in trying, so I do.

One of my favorite quotes is from Epictetus. “If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” So I have. Most of my life.

I’ve never had a problem being the odd-man out, the quiet one, the one who likes to be left alone to create. I don’t mind being the music nerd or the writer who stays in on a Saturday night, the wanderer who happens upon a quiet restaurant and stops in for a solo glass of wine and a chat with a stranger, the inspiration gatherer or the dream chaser. 

The amusing part comes when I happen to glance over my shoulder at something I wanted to do –and did. After spending weeks or months preparing for it, studying for it, stressing out about it and losing sleep over it, once I apply myself, the moment has finally come. And it’s done.

Accomplished.

A box that’s checked off the list.

I cast a backwards glance and practically laugh at myself. “What did you think you’d do, fail?” Don’t get me wrong — failure is always an option. Lord knows I’ve done that enough in my life so far, with more to come. But so often I forget to be content in my preparation that I’ve worked so hard at.

I believe that preparation is the key to most things, while dumb luck covers the remainder. Sometimes I wonder if I worry too much, or if I worry to the point of spooking myself, thus guaranteeing that I’ll put in some long hours which ultimately pay off in the long-run.

Maybe shorter hours would’ve gotten the job done. Most likely they would’ve. But if they hadn’t been as long, my worries would’ve been that much greater. It’s how I’m wired.

The annoying part of my wiring is the part that comes right before those long hours. The hemming and hawing, the overthinking, the planning for Plan B, C, D, as well as E, F and G. I liken it to a pile of documents that needs shredding. The mountain looks intimidating and you know it’s going to take time. The machine might jam or burn up. You might get a papercut or, worse yet, a finger caught in the darned thing. But if you take it a few pages at a time, slowly and steadily, you get through it.

The job is done.

Nothing overheated, nothing burned up.

It’s done, and you look at the new pile you’ve created and think, “That’s all it took?”

Tonight I am thankful not for my personal victories when it comes to checking off the things I put on my to-do list, but instead for the reminder to be content during the entire process. If preparation doesn’t pay off, perhaps it’s because the time isn’t right. Maybe it’s meant to spur myself into trying again, and trying it in a different, perhaps more efficient manner.

And if the preparation does pay off, it’s a reminder that those people really were right. I totally could make it happen. And I did.

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