© 2009-2010 Ugur Akinci
Success as a technical communicator and writer obviously takes a lot of knowledge and training. It then takes years of practice to learn what works and what doesn’t; what’s theory and what’s the reality. But that’s not all.
If you’d like to be not only successful but also HAPPY as a technical communicator, then you also need to have the internal strength and resources to make the ride worthwhile. Otherwise it’s much work for nothing.
I’d like to share two names with you today who have inspired me a lot within the last couple of weeks. I think reading their life stories and thinking about their teachings really made a positive difference in my life.
My first source of inspiration is Henry Marsh, the 4-time Olympian who owned the 3,000 steeple chase event for a number of years. His 1985 steeple chase American record (8:09.17) is still not broken!
In his marvelous book “The Breakthrough Factor,” Marsh examines the factor that makes us break through our comfort zone and head for true greatness, regardless of our chosen track in life.
Two concepts that I found very relevant to my own life are the importance of principles, and the importance of racing your own “personal best” and not the “other competitors.”
I agree with Marsh 100% that our lives are nothing but the manifestation of the invisible, weightless, odorless PRINCIPLES that we carry with us wherever we go. To change our lives for the better, we need to drop bad principles and adopt good ones.
That’s easier said than done of course and Marsh is the first one to admit the difficulty of adopting a new set of principles that would help us break through to a more meaningful life. But he does his best to help us along the way, by sharing his experience as an Olympian athlete and a professional behavior coach.
Second point is also very well taken: as long as we compete with “others” we usually lose. Usually comparisons with others take our energy away and break our spirit for no good reason at all. However, when we compete against our “personal best,” as long as we know in hearts that we did our personal best, then there’s no losing, Regardless of the outcome, we’ll live with the satisfaction of having kept the word that we gave ourselves.
You’d be amazed the kind of renewed energy and enthusiasm with which you’ll be going back to your work and life when you start aiming at your own “personal best” instead of what others may or may not be “achieving.”
My other source of inspiration for the week, Les Paul, is the word-renown guitarist who died recently at age 94. As recently as 5 years ago Les was still playing his guitar at night clubs to appreciative audiences. Imagine yourself playing jazz guitar at a professional level at age 89…
Les Paul, who also invented the modern solid-body electric guitar, considered guitar playing and making other people happy as his reason for being on earth. He did what he loved to do and loved what he end up doing for almost a century.
There is one episode in Les Paul’s life that I wasn’t aware of. According to the New York Times story:
“They were touring in 1948 when Mr. Paul’s car skidded off an icy bridge. Among his many injuries, his right elbow was shattered; once set, it would be immovable for life. Mr. Paul had it set at an angle, slightly less than 90 degrees, so that he could continue to play guitar.”
Wow, imagine that! If that doesn’t teach us what commitment to one’s calling is, I don’t know what will.
About thirty years later when arthritis began to bother the ace player, he started almost from scratch and re-taught himself how to play the guitar and worked his way around his handicap. If you listened to Les in his seventies and eighties you could tell he was not the same lighting-quick player that he was as a young man. But you’d still be ready to give an arm and a leg to play like that. As an amateur guitar player, I knew I would.
Don’t hesitate to march in the direction that your own winds take you. Have the courage to listen to yourself and listen well. When you are pleased with the person who is looking back at you in the mirror, the chances are you’re already the best technical communicator that you can be as well.