Starting from Scratch

By Kennington Smith

Imagine you’ve been given a car, but it’s what one would call a “fixer upper.” You’ve been tasked with building the perfect car for yourself. The work you put in has given you a very comfortable, dependable vehicle and provides everything you need for your automotive needs.

Now, you’re presented with the chance to put more work into the car to improve it further but you shy away from the chance, citing your car looks good enough.  

As time goes on, your car begins to decay before your eyes.  First, your rear taillight goes out, then your tires go flat and finally your transmission fails. Without your willingness to improve or maintain it, the components begin to break down and not function as they did before.

It’s not noticeable in the beginning, but over time the flaws become more evident. You know that your car is falling apart but you find that re-building the room is a harder process than you anticipated.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in this very situation, but my “car” wasn’t a car at all but a pen and paper. I found my pen and paper suffering because of a mindset that can be very dangerous if not monitored correctly. This mindset or state of being I’m referring to is known as complacency.

Throughout my life, the one thing that came easiest to me was writing. I remember being able to put my pen to paper and make it come to life without any problem whether it was an article, essay, journal, etc. I knew this was my calling from a young age and I was as passionate as I could be to develop my talent and fall more in love with it.

This passion only intensified when I walked onto UGA’s campus. Opportunities such as writing for The Red & Black, co-founding ELITE and the Grady College Sports Media Certificate were all avenues that stimulated my interest.

I looked to take advantage of each one of these opportunities in continuing my ultimate goal of becoming a lead personality for a major sports network such as ESPN.

As I begin to join and excel in different journalistic platforms, I made a grave mistake. I took my talents for granted. The same passion I had started to fade, the drive I once had faltered but my ego grew larger and larger.

I had become too comfortable with where I was at and stopped putting in the same work to ensure I was always improving.

At first, I didn’t think too much of it. I would make a small mistake here or there that I normally wouldn’t make but I brushed it off as no big deal. Then, I stopped writing as much as I used to, thinking “It’s like riding a bike, just pick it back up no problem.”

But, there was a problem. Writing is a skill just like anything else, without constant sharpening of this skill your abilities can diminish quickly. It wasn’t until a recent critiquing of something I wrote when I realized how far I really regressed.

Furthermore, my head that was once bouncing with dozens of ideas was now clouded by severe writer’s block. My car wasn’t the well-oiled machine it once was.

My greatest talent became my biggest challenge, and that scared me to death. I had to regain my passion back but I didn’t know how.

The process of breaking out of my complacency was a lot longer than I had anticipated. I thought it could be as easy as “flipping the switch” but that wasn’t the case, it’s a multi-step process.

It first started with a list. This list was broken up into two sections:

  1. Things that made me better at what I do
  2. What takes up my time that isn’t making me better

After taking some time the latter of the two was much longer than the first. This was effective in determining where it all started and what I can eliminate from my life.

Then, it was time to put things into perspective. For as bad as I was making things out to be, I still had a lot to hang my hat on.

I’m a black man at a top ranked university debt-free, never have been in any type of serious trouble and have as strong of a support system from friends and family that anyone could ask for. I knew the talent was there, I just had to re-dedicate myself in what I love.

The next step in the process was to create a plan of action. This plan of action included what I need to do short-term and long-term to ensure I don’t fall into this again. One major fixture of this plan is routine self-evaluations to measure where I’m at and if any adjustments need to be made.

The final and most important step of all is to put it all into action. As cliché as it may sound, actions do in fact speak much louder than any word could. It was a strong motivation and work ethic that afforded me the opportunities that I’ve had and putting that same drive back to work is the only way to propel me forward.

In no way am I saying that being content with where you are currently is a bad thing, everyone’s situation is different and I believe that if you have a good thing going then don’t rock the boat.

At the same time, I’m a strong believer that if you’re not getting better (at the least maintaining) then you’re getting worse. Allowing time to pass by without improving is doing yourself a great disservice by letting your talent go to waste and opportunities fall by the wayside.

To anyone battling complacency, I’d advise you to follow these few steps: self-evaluation, plan of action, re-dedication and implementation.

Above all, don’t beat yourself about your car’s current state because that only leads to a deeper and darker place. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and remember that all the potential in the world is already inside of you…now go maximize it.

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