If you have trouble getting back up on that horse, use a bigger ladder

A few months ago, I started a new job and people have often asked me how it’s going. Here’s the answer.

It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. The learning curve is huge. I took a break from journalism for three years, struggled in advertising, and now I’m struggling with something I wanted to do to begin with. It’s anything but easy, and part of the reason is that for the first time – ever – I’m surrounded by a bunch of people who are really good at what they do. Actually, that’s a lie. I was surrounded by the same kind of people at Cossette, but once I got there, I realized I didn’t really want to work in advertising, so it didn’t seem to count. It really should have. These are not the kinds of things we should only realize in retrospect.

Anyhow, despite the difficulty, I’ve decided that only arrogance would prevent me from giving this my bestest shot. So I’m just swallowing it, learning, working harder than I ever have, and turning the other cheek to all manner of criticism. After all, this is exactly what studying music is like: laborious, unforgiving, but so satisfying when you nail that crazy-ass cadenza.

Along the way, I’ve made mental notes on how to maintain stability. Here’s how I’m keeping afloat.

  1. It’s incredibly important to remember what you’re good at. Find as many opportunities as you can to make it surface. It’s a wonderful exercise to do something confidently.
  2. If someone else notices your strength and praises you for it, that’s gravy, but don’t seek praise and don’t dwell on it. Focus on the work.
  3. It’s incredibly important to know what you’re not so good at. If you don’t know and someone else tells you, and you trust the source, take it seriously. The truth is, there are only a handful of people who revel in putting others down. The rest are actually trying to help.
  4. Get better at everything. Get better at what you’re good at and what you’re not. Being great doesn’t last. You always have to do one better.
  5. Practice, practice, practice. If you can, spend more time practicing than you do working. Practicing will inform your work, and it’ll show.
  6. Give yourself a day or two to not worry about any of this. During that time, be lazy. Relish in recupe time.
  7. Don’t take your frustrations out on other people. If you have to criticize someone else’s work while yours is going through the ringer, remember the awesome responsibility of helping them grow. It’s so easy to be driven by bitterness, but it’s much more effective when you’re not. Also, people can always smell bitterness, and it’ll cut your credibility in half if you don’t stow it somewhere where it can’t emerge.
  8. When things get tough, find a figure who seems to have it together, and ask yourself what they would do. For me, it’s Scarlett O’Hara. I’m not sure Scarlett would do any of the things I’ve asked her to do so far, but projection is a good exercise. It takes you out of yourself for a moment and makes the difficulty seem feasible.
  9. There’s no way to medicate the problem. Like physio, it’s hard, it’s rough, it’s painful, but it’s the only way to get well. So savour the small victories.
  10. Remember, jockeys are about a quarter of the size of the horse, but ultimately it’s the rider that wins the race.

Maybe it sounds like I’m not happy, but it’s actually quite the contrary. This has been the most satisfying period of my life. Then again, I love a challenge.


  1. I would appreciate it if you would stop churning out incredibly useful posts when I’m trying to be mooshy about something.

    CEASE immediately! (no, don’t, really!)

  2. You know what else is mooshy? Kitties! And what problem can’t be solved by mimicking the behaviour of a cat.

    I know, I know…ugh…

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