Doing What You’re Good At…?

“Do what you’re good at” is the general advice. I’ve followed that in the past, and I’ve come a real cropper from it. This week has been a busy one, and it’s reminded me why I no longer do things just because I can.

Last Friday lunchtime I was suddenly offered a place on a Cycle Training Instructor’s course, to run all week in Manchester. I accepted, and the last four days have been an exciting blur of learning and practise.

There were quite a few teachers on the course, and I enjoyed hearing their experiences and sharing my own. I started in secondary schools, then worked in a Pupil Referral Unit, moved on to work for the LEA teaching the children who’d been excluded from the PRU, and finally taught in prisons. I have pretty much specialised in Behavioural Management rather than a particular subject area.

I was good at it. I felt that the input I gave on this course was valued, and it reminded me of the good times when I taught wayward kids. It was challenging and rewarding. I earned good money as I climbed the career ladder, and I was a respected professional.

I could go back to it. I could do it again. I could be rather good at it.

I won’t.

It took me a long time to learn this lesson: don’t do something just because you can. Don’t do something just because you’re good at it. Don’t do something because other people say to you “wow, I wish I could do that!”

There was a flip side. There always is. I was good because I cared, and I worked hard, and I strove for improvement. I was tired – physically and emotionally – all the time. If I look at it objectively, I was good at my duties but I was not good at my job because the job was far more than the sum of the parts. I could deal with angry teenagers and paperwork and the LEA. But could I fit it all together and be a good and fully functioning adult with spare time, balance and a decent home life? No.

If I were only measuring success on being good at the everyday duties – hell, I was brilliant! But taking a step back and measuring success on being a well rounded and sane human being…. Nope.

It’s easy to forget to see the bigger picture and when you’re young, career and jobs can seem so important.

I loved the cycle training course. Now I’m (provisionally) qualified to teach Bikeability (the new cycling proficiency) in schools. It’s an exciting new opportunity, and I am glad that I used to be a teacher – the experience is hugely valuable. But would I go back to it? Heh… what do you think….!

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  1. #1 by Phil on February 22, 2013 - 2:27 pm

    My problem is that there are things I am good(ish) at and that people want me to do. Many of these are things that I won’t get paid for though. It’s taken me a long while to get my head around the idea that it’s not flattery to be told you are good at something, you are being told it by someone who wants you to do a job so they don’t have to.

    Now, I will help but I won’t take the job away, care about it and put a lot of effort in unless I’m being paid. It p****s people off but that’s life.

    • #2 by autumnbarlow on March 1, 2013 - 9:21 am

      You “should” want to do this for free because you are good at it! yes, I’ve heard that one. Sometimes it’s hard to see where you are gaining good experience… and where you are being taken advantage of.

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