The internet is a great tool to learn and experience quite literally every single human endeavor. You name the topic and there most likely exists – at least – a single Wikipedia entry. With a few YouTube video tutorials, some blog posts starting with “How To…” you can become knowledgeable in a myriad of technical and non-technical professions.
I work on the web every day. My job title is “Web Project Coordinator” and while this implies that I’m focused on the web I find myself both professionally and personally doing so much more.
I freely admit this is a 1st world problem and there are far greater difficulties facing the universe, but on an individual level I find the feeling of not being proficient in one particular area to be a serious mental drain. Why do I feel like a jack of all trades and a master of none?
Some days I feel like a fraud, that everyone I work with (and for) have been duped by smoke and mirrors. That if they ever found out how little I actually know I’d be branded as a fluke, a huckster. Part of me knows this isn’t true. That I’m smart and well received by those I work with, but man because of the Internet I feel like such a moron. Why is this?
It’s because I read. I read a lot.
I pursue Twitter and Google Reader to find out what’s going on all over the world. I read about Adam Lisagor and his awesome video work or Neven Mrgan and his splendid design chops. Boing Boing fills me with oddities to delight the senses and bizarre people I would love to meet.
Guys like Merlin Mann and Jeffery Zeldman make me feel like a sloth with their intelligent and witty writing. Don’t even get me started on Mike Matas‘ photography or Brent Simmons‘ helpful articles on coding. How about Michael Lopp’s awesome guide to being a better geek?
I digress, but you can see how after daily observances of a plethora of cool things one can start comparing themselves and asking, “Why am I not that successful? Why are these people so awesome?”
But I think I’ve figured it out.
having a discussion bitching to my wife on the ride home from work. I was withering in fake pain about how I don’t feel like I’m strong in any particular area and how I worry about my future. My wife, as smart as always, pointed out an obvious fact.
I’m comparing myself to 5 different people – of course I’m not going to be as good in each profession as these folks have chosen. I’ve been trying to stretch myself in so many different ways because I’m excited! I want to do everything I read about because it all sounds so interesting.
I realize now that I can’t try to do what 5 separate people have accomplished. I can dabble here, and try something over here, but at the end of the day I need to relax.
My wife reminded me that what is important is that the people I work with enjoy what I can do for them and that I continue to develop as an individual without the pressure to be as good as everyone on the Internet. I often forget that these folks are great at what they do and that what each one of them does is diverse and specific. People rarely blog about their shortcomings – about topics that they’re not proficient in. They talk about their successes, their passions and what cool things they’re doing.
So anytime I’m down in a funk, that I feel like no one would hire me and that I’m some sort of goober, I just need to remember that even thought the Internet can bring so much information to my fingertips that it does nothing to filter – to remind me that I need to take things in one at a time. Admire these things I see and hear, enjoy them, but ultimately be at peace with who I am and where I’m going.