How to Be Successful When You’re Not that Good at Stuff

When #BrokeAssSmallYouTuber was kicked off, I was thrown into hundreds of conversations with hundreds of small creators. Some of them are insanely talented and wickedly brilliant. Some have a lot of potential to become great.

Several were singers. A couple were dancers. A few put out incredible art. Some told the most compelling stories I’ve ever heard.

And then there was me.

I’ve done relatively well in life – far beyond where I would have predicted I could have gotten – and I seem to still be on the rise. I haven’t maxed out my potential by any means. I feel like I have options and that my abilities are improving, slowly.

But I don’t understand how, because I’m not actually that good at stuff.

A fellow #BrokeAssSmallYouTuber and one of my favorite weirdos, Armin, mentioned something along the same lines in one of our Twitter chats.

“I feel like it would be so much easier to grow if I could sing, or dance, or act, or anything.”

And this resonated with me, because I’ve had the same thought.

It’s not that it’s easy to become famous for singing. There are a million singers, and no matter how good you are, there are always thousands of people who have better voices, better songs to choose from, more fans, or just a more marketable image.

It’s the same for actors and actresses, dancers, and artists of any form. There’s always someone better.

I think his point was more that if you fit a certain mold – if you’re a performer – then it’s easier to find a selling point for yourself. Your content is automatically entertaining and easily branded. It fits a category people are searching for. It solves a want that people already have.

But when you’re not particularly talented, you struggle to find your selling point. You struggle to figure out what value you have to offer. That’s why people become teachers, coaches, mentors – because that’s where the value lies.

So how do you get people to pay attention to you when you’re neither a performer nor a teacher?

Armin’s got talent

I would still consider Armin successful, as would he.

He’s intensely intelligent. He’s a scientist. And once you get out of nerd territory, he’s still brilliant. He’s a good creator – off the wall and bizarre, but good. And he’ll only get better. He’s made some of the most innovative videos I’ve seen, even though he’s only been on YouTube for a little longer than I have.

He has talent.

Then there’s me

I’m not actually that good at much of anything.

I’m a passable writer, and my photography is getting better. I’m fairly introspective, which is nice, and I like to think I’m self-aware.

But I’m not that smart. I was a dancer, but I was never very good at it. I sing really loudly in my car – the volume covers up the fact that I can’t actually carry a note in a bucket. Sometimes I’m funny in my conversations, but most of my jokes don’t translate well to script.

I’m overwhelmingly average, if not a little bit below. The only thing I do really well is friendliness. I have excellent customer service. I’m super nice. I get comment cards written about me because I do stupid things like finding the closest thrift store for a guest because she forgot her swimsuits, rather than just saying, “Oh, I’m sorry you can’t enjoy the pool.”

But getting anywhere is a struggle. I owe almost all my opportunities to being kind, ambitious, and… punctual.

It’s not that exciting.

But that’s the thing. We can’t all be glamorous. We can’t all have incredible talents. But we can still make something of ourselves.

I live a joyful life full of opportunity based off of my personality and my ability to not fuck up my relationships.

I’m doing two photo shoots this weekend. One chose me because I’m accessible and friendly and willing to do things according to her standards. Another chose me to do family portraits because she can trust me around her family.

And that’s how I’m going to reach my definition of success. That’s how I’m going to reach my goals as a photographer – by finding people who love what I do, not necessarily for the output (at least not as it exists now), but by finding people who love how I do it. My customers are the people who love working with me because I’m friendly and work according to what they want.

For my blog and my channel, I’m interested in engaging the people who want to keep reading about my journey as I work on getting better at creating and at thinking like an artist. I want to engage with people who are on their own creative journeys and need a sunshiny unicorn to tell them they’re doing okay and they’ll make it someday.

Because success is about finding the thing that brings you joy and then doing as much of that thing as you possibly can using whatever means you have at your disposal. Even if you’re not talented. Even if you’re just nice and punctual. Fuck the numbers. Fuck the money. Just keep floating and finding the joy. That’s success. That’s happiness.

Woman eating a block of cheese the size of a car battery.

This is a woman eating a block of cheddar cheese the size of a car battery. She found her joy. I consider her successful. And she’s legitimately what inspired this post.

2 comments on “How to Be Successful When You’re Not that Good at Stuff”

  1. Patrick Cleary Reply

    I think 99.9% of successful YouTubers are successful because they’re good-looking, loud, young and can talk fast. Seriously. Look at the top YouTubers…they’re all kind of blandly good-looking (mostly white) young people who shout at the camera for an insanely long time about whatever they want. Most of what they do is decent, but mostly, it’s just people other people (mostly young) want to look at.

    Most people get to where they want to be through passion and hard work, but the human element is what takes them along. One of the things I’ve said many times is that I will often cast people in my shows for talent, but I’ll regularly cast people because they’re good folks I can work with. If I don’t want to be stuck in a theater at 2am painting a set beside you, I’m not casting you in a show, no matter how great a performer you are.

    Acting? Singing? Dancing? There are literally millions of people who can do that. Success is trying and trying and trying and just getting there, inch by inch.

    • Michael Noker Reply

      See, now I feel like being friendly and acting like a decent, rational adult is a valid marketing plan. I like the point you made about casting based off of who you want to work with. I was the same way when I was a manager – I would hire people who had no (or very little) previous customer service experience if they just seemed like they were nice, laid back, and funny, because that is who I would want on my team when we were snowed in on top of a mountain, scrubbing toilets because housekeeping couldn’t drive up, working yet another 13-hour day, living off vending machine food until the snow plows finally got to us. I hired people because they wouldn’t drive me fucking insane once we were in the trenches (I knew we would be eventually).

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