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Swing and a Miss (28/30)
Blah blah blah growth mindset
In the interest of growing my readership, I recently submitted the first essay I wrote to a Medium publication called Better Humans, a collection of self-help articles which occupy the entire spectrum between surface level clickbaity bullshit and thought-provoking, nuanced, inspirational writing. Better Humans has a very large following made up of the kinds of folks I imagined might find my essay interesting.
Given that I had spent a lot of time on that essay and received some generally positive feedback, I was cautiously confident that it was closer to “nuanced” and “thought-provoking” than “bullshit”. I figured if I could just get it published that my readership was sure to grow. I just had to get my work out there.
Last week I got word that my essay had been accepted and would be published the coming Monday. I was stoked — something I wrote was being shared with hundreds of thousands of people! A feeling of being someone resembling a ‘real writer’ crept in, and I was walking on air the rest of the week as I anxiously awaited the Monday morning publication.
Monday morning came.
The piece completely flopped.
Medium’s “Story Stats” shows that only eighteen people read the article. The average reading time was just over a minute, indicating that few, if any, of those eighteen made it all the way through. It received no engagement.
As you might expect, this did not go over particularly well with my ego. Those lovely narratives that are characteristic of a fixed mindset — not being talented, being a failure, and so on — quickly made themselves heard. It was not a good feeling.
Luckily this feeling didn’t last long, courtesy of two reminders to myself.
The first was that I needed to take my own advice. The thesis of the essay I submitted was about living intentionally in accordance with your own values and doing the things that fulfill you. Writing is something that fulfills me, and choosing to do so consistently and share the finished product is in accordance with my values. The act of doing this is the whole point.
The second reminder was that overriding the ego and shifting back to a growth mindset would transform this event from an indictment of my value and abilities to a fun challenge and opportunity. Writing is like any other craft; it takes consistent, intentional effort to improve. My essay performing poorly means that I have a lot of room for improvement.
“Room for improvement” is a connotatively negative phrase, but it’s actually quite optimistic. It means that effort will reliably produce significant progress and results. The feelings of satisfaction and pride that come from seeing yourself improve over time as a result of hard work — along with the added bonus of getting to look back and laugh at how utterly terrible you were when you started — are a hallmark of human experience. Thus, having room for improvement is by nature an engaging and worthwhile challenge.
All of us have had and will continue to have experiences just like this one. As with anything else in life, the nature of the experience is dictated by how one chooses to see it.