How overconfidence cost me a massive opportunity.
When you’re really good at something, you become confident about it. And the more success you have with it, the more your confidence grows. Before you know it, you’re sure you can do it in your sleep. Overconfidence.
I’ve always been pretty confident when it comes to language aptitude. I did well in most subjects in school, but my affinity with languages was on another level. They were guaranteed A’s, with very little effort put in.
I vividly remember finishing an English exam in half the time back in junior school, and seeing the astonished look on my teacher’s face.
‘Are you sure you’re done?’ she asked. To which I replied that I was.
She proceeded to mark my paper, and actually gave me my results before the other kids had finished writing.
I had failed though.
I remember the feeling of shock and regret as I looked at the score: 80%.
I had failed 20 questions simply because I was overconfident and didn’t even want to look through my work to make sure I hadn’t made any errors.
Lesson learned. I started going through my papers before handing in from then on.
Fast forward 20 years later, and I’m a professional writer. I write blog posts for businesses, ad copy, social media copy, website landing pages, product descriptions, and anything in between.
Now, clients have different fields, rates and style guides. Resultantly, some assignments are more fun than others.
Opportunity comes knocking
I applied and landed a gig at one of the most awesome content creation firms in the world. They literally have a less than 1% acceptance rate for applications. They allow you to write about the topics you want, with a liberating style guide and really good pay.
That’s every writer’s dream, aside from gaining millions of followers and becoming a rock star like JK Rowling.
So I got in. Ahead of thousands of applicants, who actually have English as their native tongue.
Naturally, I was giddy with joy.
Everything seemed to be going right. My new business was growing really well, and here I was with a dream way to earn extra income.
There were two articles I was supposed to submit as my first assignment. Then I could lay back and choose when and what to write at my own discretion.
I aced the first test. Then submitted the second article at the deadline after a tight day at work.
Part of me wanted to request more time so I could go through again and make sure all was well, but I didn’t want to give an impression of being unable to finish assignments on time.
What if they thought I was unserious and dropped me? I didn’t want to lose the opportunity. And besides, my brain was sure I had done a great job. They loved my previous pieces, they would love this too.
The hammer falls
A few days later I receive an email saying: “We regret to inform you that due to spelling errors, your application will not be taken forward.”
I went through a whirlwind of emotions; starting with shock and horror, then ending with fear. Spelling errors? Me? No. No way.
I contacted the support team asking for a review, sure there had been a misunderstanding. They responded.
It turns out, I had forgotten to add hyphens to the phrase ‘five-year-old’ in my last article.
I lost a dream opportunity because of hyphens.
The irony is, there are online proofreading tools I’d previously used that would have caught that error.
I hated using them because it was extra work. And I was awesome at languages. No way I’d make any errors and not see them, right?
I asked for a second chance multiple times, but I was always told there were no free slots at the time.
Overconfidence leads to your downfall.
When you’re really good at something, you become confident about it. And the more success you have with it, the more your confidence grows. Before you know it, you’re sure you can do it in your sleep.
What happens next? You start underestimating the task and putting in minimum effort. Then you fail big time at a huge audition and wonder how it happened.
Stay humble. Don’t let your standards slip. Put in the required effort always, no matter how sure you are of yourself.
If I’d used those online tools I thought were too much work, just to be sure – just to give my best – I wouldn’t be writing this lamentation.
And I’m pretty sure Goliath would have smashed David if he read this article before the fight.
For everything you want to succeed in, go harder than everyone else.
Sounds obvious, doesn’t it? But how often do we actually do it?
Many of us may start hard, then taper off somewhere in the middle; sure we’ve done enough to secure our place. Until someone hungrier comes along and takes everything.
You see it all the time. You can be the best in the world today, then have your crown taken from you tomorrow by a young upstart.
I’d waited years for a gig like that, then took it lightly after getting it. I regret it every day.
But everything in life is a lesson. And the pain of that lesson will serve as a reminder for me to be better in all my ventures from now on.
I won’t take what I love lightly. I will put in extra work. I will remain hungry
And I will be the best in the world at whatever I do.
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