Strike hard with what you do best


If you want to make it in this world – if you want to achieve important goals you have set for yourself, either financial prosperity, or looking back on your life at 45 or 55 or 65 and thinking you have done all right – you would have to spend the best hours of your day utilizing your best skills, working on projects or tasks where your experience and/or natural talents are most prominent.

If you ignore what you do better than anything else for the sake of short-term considerations, the possibility of achieving some success is not entirely excluded, but the probability decreases by the day.

It is a simple strategy: Hit the hardest with what you do best. Or like the poet, W.H. Auden said: “You owe it to us all to get on with what you’re good at.”


Maybe you don’t like the idea of competition. Perhaps you believe your only race is with yourself. Maybe you think life is not just science and math.

Whatever your feelings about this matter, if you want to make it in this world, you better be ready to compete. For every dollar you want to make, there is another man or woman who has set their eyes on the same dollar. For every product you hope to sell, or for any service you want to offer, there is at least one other man or woman who is working on a similar product or offering a similar service. If you think you know something, just know, someone else probably possesses the exact same knowledge.

What can you do? Is there hope for the average non-genius man or woman who doesn’t have access to inexhaustible resources to make up for their shortcomings?

The hope is this: Focus on your talents, every day. If it is to bake cookies and exchange one fresh dozen after another for cold, hard cash, then do that. If it is playing guitar or composing songs, then you do that. If it is bringing people together and teaching them something they did not know, do that. If it is taking care of people in need, do that. If it is to write poems or essays or stories … then you know what to do. Hit as hard as you can with your number one skill.

What happens if you struggle to make money with your number one skill, or if you are convinced that there is no market for it? Do you sigh, “That’s just how life is,” before you start searching the classified ads for the first and best opportunity to sell your time?

The sentiments I express in this note are not motivated by my belief that a creative life is better than a life where you simply survive from one salary to another. They are motivated by a conviction that your best chance of survival – survival! – is to focus on your best abilities.

Still, if you reckon the best thing you can offer the world has no commercial value, ask yourself: Is there any way you can solve a problem for someone else with your skills or talents? Is there any way you can help someone get to a good place where they want to be? Is there any way you can help someone get away from a place they want to move away from? Even if you don’t make money by solving problems for other people, helping them might improve your life in other ways, including opening opportunities you may never have thought of.

The hard reality is that most of us have to pay for our own bread and butter, and maybe for some other people’s bread and butter too. Sometimes it means engaging in activities where we do not employ our best talents or skills, but it is important not to waste your time. Once you have done what you need to do to put food on the table, get back to the things you do better than most other people. Your survival, and your success in life depend on it.