Guilt Free

By Jake Poinier

As a freelancer, it’s easy to feel guilty about shouldas, wouldas and couldas. It’s tempting to obsess on the things that you’re doing wrong — or that everyone else seems to do better than you.

I’m here to tell ya: Don’t do it. There’s no reason to feel guilty, and there’s even scientific evidence to back you up.

Career advisor Allison Cheston of Career Karma wrote a great post this week, “To Be Happy in Life, Find the Right Career,” referencing the work of author and Gallup pollster Tom Rath. (His bestseller was StrengthsFinder 2.0, and most recent work was Wellbeing.)

Since you’re on this website, I’m going to assume that you’ve found the right career. And I’d like to think you’re happy, or trending that way.

As it happens, I was fortunate enough to interview Mr. Rath a few months ago for Speaker magazine, the association magazine for the National Speakers Association. (Article pdf here). One of the things he said really stuck with me: Gallup’s decades of research bears out how much more effective it is to develop your natural talents and passions than it is to “try to be something that you’re not.”

As someone whose biggest struggles would include writing long stories (I prefer shorter stuff) and fiction (I stink at it, honestly), that comes as a relief to me. So, I can freely focus my efforts on the things I *am* good at: business copy and short features. I can’t worry that I’ll never publish a steamy tome about vampires like my buddy Evelyn Lafont, who posted “It’s Hard Out There for a Pimp…of Books” here on Freelance-Zone last week.

Mind you, this isn’t an all-ice-cream-no-broccoli excuse to blow off everything but the things you like to do. The yin to this yang is that you still need to…

  • identify and manage your weaknesses and blind spots.
  • measure what you’re doing, get honest feedback from peers/clients, and hold yourself accountable.

So, dispense with the guilt and start focusing on your areas of competence, confidence and passions. It’s a lot more productive.

Jake Poinier (a.k.a. Dr. Freelance) recently blogged about how freelancers should “Embrace your inner honey badger.”

5 thoughts on “Guilt Free”

  1. As usual, great post Jake. 🙂
    I read the StrengthsFinder book and took the test, and I have to say, it’s excellent. And I’m with you on the “shorter is better” train too….

    In the beginning of my freelance career I tried to write everything, and quite honestly, it was a mistake. I would have done much better to stick to the things I enjoyed–which I finally did wind up writing about anyway….

    Great advice!

  2. “And I’d like to think you’re happy, or trending that way.”

    I love this sentence. Seriously, so much of what we do as writers with guilt… is “forget to trend that way.”

    This is my response to “How are you?” 🙂

  3. @Catherine, I can usually find something I enjoy in every project — but with the shorter stuff, it’s a smaller haystack 🙂

    @Diane, glad you liked it. I’m a stock market hobbyist in my spare time, and the old Wall Street saying is, “The trend is your friend.”

  4. I took a contract job with a local community college this year, and during the first semester I was co-teaching a class of high school juniors what was pretty much Freshman Orientation. The basis for the class was StrengthFinder. My #1 strength? Ideation. Not too bad for a writer!

    And, yes, the sense of relief that it was okay I hadn’t worked too hard at getting better at math was just wonderful!

  5. @Dava, that’s very interesting that they used StrengthsFinder. (I’m embarrassed to admit I haven’t taken it yet — I had to interview him on short notice, and Borders was all out of copies!)

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