Am I wasting my time?
When mentoring writers and speakers, this is the question I’m asked. It’s the same question I’ve asked myself at times.
Behind this question sit several others. What if I can’t find a publisher who wants my book? What if no one reads my posts? What if my speaking platform never takes off, and I can’t make a living? I don’t want to waste all this for nothing.
So. Tell me. Am I wasting my time?
It’s a valid question. But one that can’t be answered. No one knows the end result. No mathematical formula or manual or expert can predict, with absolute guarantee, whether or not your love of and execution of your craft will produce desired results. It’s entirely unanswerable.
The chief problem with this question isn’t the fact we ask it, but the faulty assumptions that fuel it.
Faulty Assumption #1: Value is determined by number.
When we ask, “Am I wasting my time?” we assume the value of our work is determined by the number of people who read, listen or view it. If it reaches only three bloggers or twelve readers, we assume the hours of effort were squandered, like flushing cash down the can.
If we believe our message, it makes sense to share it with as many people as possible. But what if … the one person who read your post decides to forgive a two-year grudge because of what you wrote? What if that presentation you did for a group of ten resulted in radical change for four marriages? What if your book made two people feel less alone? Is it worth it for them?
Faulty Assumption #2: Significance is measured by popularity.
Quantity is no longer enough. Now we measure the significance of our art by the stature of our patrons. Am I wasting my time? Not if a large-stage organization with an audience of thousands asks me to speak. Not if a major publisher wants to print my book. Not if my website comments and coaching clientele include recognizable names and impressive reputations.
Your work—your art—is significant because of Who called you to it. Not those who recognize it. It is significant the moment you decide to be faithful and do the work, because it is at that moment you participate in something greater than yourself. Publishing doesn’t make a book inspired. Applause doesn’t make a message transformational. No reputation or influence, regardless of how big the name or wide the influence, can add to or take away from the worth of your calling. Except The Name.
Faulty Assumption #3: Validity is decided by visible benefits
We wield the word “success” only after seeing empty bookshelves and full auditorium seats. We want thousands of followers and generous endorsements. Statistics and visible results are good; they indicate whether or not we’re connecting with and impacting those we want to reach. But some benefits cannot be seen.
Take the silent reader who never comments. Or the man sitting in the back of the room who prayed quietly after hearing your message. Or take you, the one who persevered and wrestled and ended up with more strength and character than you would’ve if the process had been easy.
Are you wasting your time?
Perhaps. If you measure success only via numbers, fame, and visibility.
But if you believe in the workings of an Invisible God who can do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, then I don’t think you’re wasting your time at all.
Do you ever wonder if you’re wasting your time? What keeps you going?