As you surf around the web, you’ll be continually bombarded with folks working to teach young writer’s to find their own voice, to be unique, to stand out from the crowd, and to do their own thing…even if only because they’re being told to do it. I’ve even heard a handful of very inspirational quotes that are used to promote this popular idea of being yourself.

He who trims himself to suit everyone will soon whittle himself away.  ~Raymond Hull

Almost every man wastes part of his life in attempts to display qualities which he does not possess, and to gain applause which he cannot keep.  ~Samuel Johnson,The Rambler, 1750

If God had wanted me otherwise, He would have created me otherwise.  ~Johann von Goethe

On the surface, it’s easy to agree with these optimistic cliches. They sound nice. They’re inspirational.

5 Powerful Keys to Becoming a Better Writer

The underlying problem with these flowery quotes is that they provide powerful fuel for us to believe in ourselves, but not necessarily in an altogether healthy manner. There is a strong difference between a lazy person becoming content with mediocrity, happy with who they currently are, versus inspired in one’s ability to learn, grow, adapt, take on new skills, and venture onward and upward toward success.

As a blogger, and as a writer, you should find your own voice. You should create a persona that is comfortable and expressive.

But you should not create that voice by simply sitting down at the computer and typing out your next blog post or college paper. Rather, create it by equipping your mind with as many tools as possible. Learn about writing essays. Study the art of persuasion. Explore the skill of descriptive flare.

Fill your mind, as you would a painter’s palette, with many bright, bold colors from which you can create a masterpiece unlike anything this earth has ever known.

Make the most of yourself, for that is all there is of you.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Be yourself” is about the worst advice you can give some people.  ~Tom Masson

Often in the movies, a hero is taught a new skill seemingly through osmosis. They’re coached to believe in themselves, to visualize themselves fighting or computer hacking, and make it happen. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work in real life.

In basic combat training, American soldiers aren’t taught to believe in themselves. They’re taught to crawl low enough to avoid being shot. They’re taught to communicate effectively with the soldiers around them. They’re taught to clean, shoot, and maintain a rifle. They’re taught hand-to-hand combat. Some, like me, then go on to learn how to jump from airplanes or helicopters.

5 Powerful Keys to Becoming a Better Writer

And when we complete our training, we step up with confidence. The same confidence that our flowery quotes can temporarily fill you with is the confidence that genuine training and equipment can fill you with permanently.

When you know how to stand tall, take orders, and execute on command, you can step up to the plate confidently and do your job in a way that makes your sergeant, or your boss, proud to have you as a part of his or her team.

Being yourself is great, but it’s even greater when you can be an informed, educated, trained, and equipped version of yourself. Certainly stay true to who you are and what you believe in, but also learn as much as you can. Improve your skill-sets. Grow your abilities.

Become an even better you!

Nicholas Cardot

About Nicholas Cardot

It's my personal quest to enable every person that I can to unlock that dormant potential concerning their online influence. Also, I'm a geek.

33 Comments

  • Gary Johnson says:

    Nicholas, you make some food points here. Personal growth is very important. Not always without pain, but essential!

    • Thanks, Gary. I’ll actually be writing more about improving as a writer tomorrow, but I wanted to prep it by challenging people to be the best you that you can possibly be. I’m waiting for my G.I. Bill paperwork to finalize and then I’m headed back to school either at the end of this month of 8 weeks from now, depending on the paperwork. Either way, I can’t wait. I just want to keep learning and growing. I don’t think that’s something you should outgrow.

      You mentioned on Twitter that you’re into healthcare now and it sounded as if that hadn’t always been your occupation. It’s neat to see you learning and exploring new jobs and skills as well. I admire that.

      Sorry to ramble and thanks for being a part of the conversation here.

      • Gary Johnson says:

        You mention GI bill. What branch did you serve with? I was Army back in the 70’s and the GI bill was a blessing! I am trained in electronics and computer repair, but there is just too much competition from the big box stores now, so I am reinventing myself!

        • I was in the Army…Infantry. I just finished up my four years. They just launched a new GI Bill called the Post 9/11 GI Bill and I’m converting mine from the Montgomery GI Bill. It has a few new benefits, but that’s the only reason that I’m waiting on the paperwork to go through.

  • NR | ExP says:

    I can definitely relate to this, having served in an Airborne unit, we were taught to stand tall because you’re better than the rest of the Army. We carried ourselves in during deployment with arrogance that most other units hated. For me the lesson wasn’t to be a jerk, but to carry yourself with confidence because you represent something bigger than yourself.

    Outside of the military, I carried on that confidence and strive to better myself in every aspect of life. The drive that the military taught me has translated into everything that I do. That even includes blogging. I have high standards of quality because my words and work represent me and that means continuously learning new things.

    • What unit were you in? When did you serve?

      • NR | ExP says:

        I served from 2001 – 2006 in Fort Bragg, NC with the 35th, before they disbanded and got sent back to Fort Gordon.

        Also, you mentioned in the other comment about the post 9/11 GI Bill. I’m currently using it and that GI Bill is the best thing that’s happened to Veterans in years. I can’t believe how easy it is for school now and not to mention the stipend you get for being a full time student.

        • Right. That housing allowance is what’s provoking me to make the switch. That’s like working a full-time job almost in pay except that I’m going to be going to school instead.

          I served from Feb 2007 – Jun 2011 with the 3rd Infantry Regiment at Ft. McNair, DC.

  • Yes it makes sense to be yourself, but you have to get a little crazy at times to get people talking about you.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • Morgan says:

    But sometimes those flowery quotes can be the motivation you need in order to learn a new skill and to conquer that new venture.

    I love to learn and I’ll never stop adapting to new skills and techniques. But on the other hand, I’m also an optimists. I’m not saying I believe in the flowery quotes, but sometimes they’re nice to hear and bring back that optimistic feeling in order to push us forward.

    I like your main point, though, to stay true to yourself, just a better, more beefed up version of yourself. 🙂

    • Perhaps it’s true that those quotes can be motivational, I find more often than not that the motivation they provide isn’t nearly as strong as having a life filled with skills and habits that can empower success. Folks who build their skill-sets and experiences will have a much greater advantage over the uneducated person who memorizes cute quotes.

      (And by uneducated, I’m not referring to formal schooling. I know people who’ve avoided school but spent a lot of time studying and learning anyways.)

  • Chris says:

    I think this quote is relevant here…

    BE YOURSELF.
    “Lousy advice! What if you are stupid?
    What if you an asshole?
    What if you are a stupid asshole?

    If you are an asshole, stop being yourself
    and try to figure out how to be someone else-
    even if it is just a non-asshole version of yourself.”
    LARRY WINGET

    • Those are all great points. You wouldn’t tell the Beast from Beauty and the Beast to be himself, would you? He was in that whole situation because he needed to change who he was and how he treated people.

    • Jason says:

      Chris, I guess you are quoting, but couldn’t you have chosen a different quote, or paraphrased with a different word? Like jerk, boring, moron, loudmouth pain, or ignoramus? Anything. Just a thought. I love reading Nicks stuff and to tell the truth this just made my day a little darker and frankly it is irritating to wake up and go to one of my favorite blogs and be inundated with unnecessary profanity.

      Nick, this is a great article and yes honing our skills to be better communicators is something all “blogger wanna-be’s” cannot do without. If this is a primer, I am looking forward to the next post.

      God Bless you Nick.

  • Dino Dogan says:

    Was it Miles Davis who said “Learn all the rules then break all the rules”?

    Artists..you know…they have a way of saying so much with so little. The economy of expression is another one of those intangible things hard to get at unless you really train for it . And we’ve come the full circle 🙂

    • That’s actually an awesome quote. I love the concept it entails. Some of the greatest writers and the greatest artists do know how to break ‘the rules’ when necessary to add their own unique style, to create emphasis, or to just add some flavor to their materials. I’ve seen amateurs do silly grammar rule breaking to try to be cute and it comes across as cheesy and juvenile.

  • Davina K. Brewer says:

    Unlike Morgan, I’m not an optimist.. not always a pessimist either. Think I’m a practical pragmatic ‘where is my half-full glass already?’ type. The flowery quotes and pithy platitudes are fun, can be good .. or they’ll just tick me off. I’m a fan of Despair demotivators because they are funny and kinda true. Telling me to ‘just do it’ ain’t enough if you don’t tell me the secret of where, how. So yeah, being myself isn’t enough – always room for improvement and that’s a never-ending thing. FWIW.

    • Davina K. Brewer says:

      Forgot to add, ITA w/ Chris and Dino’s quotes .. That’s the kind of quippy I can handle.

    • Sometimes I look at that ‘glass half-full’ concept and think that it’s entirely silly. What if you’re only partially thirsty and only want a half glass of water? What if there is a fire starting on the stove, and you want to use the water to put it out? What if you’re in the desert and people are dying of thirst and you could share with them?

      All those questions are, of course, nonsense, but I mention them to make this point. Optimism and pessimism both consistently fail to factor in the context and information about every situation. Hoping that you’re going to be a great writer and believing in yourself isn’t going to fill the glass any fuller. Learning how to use the faucet will and once you know how to do that, it doesn’t matter how you feel when you see a half glass of water because you can always just walk over and fill it up to your heart’s content.

      With that in mind, I always try to encourage people to keep learning as much as possible. Don’t ever stop learning.

      But you’re right. Simply saying ‘keep learning’ isn’t enough. We do need specific resources to keep growing. Thanks for that challenge. I’ll be working over the next few days to put together some material to help meet that need.

  • Noel Addison says:

    success in writing constitute intelligence, knowledge and self-discipline. Intelligence that is born to you, the knowledge that you acquire in the process of learning and self-discipline to transform you to a better “you”.

    • Those are all great points. Writing is a beautiful art and it’s a vital part of almost any successful online business, and those tips you mentioned are perfect for honing your skill at that art.

  • Laura Click says:

    I’m an eternal optimist, so I have to admit I’m a sucker for inspirational quotes. But, you’re right – it’s one thing to FEEL inspired and another thing to equip yourself with the tools and skills to actually do something about it. Good advice.

    • Thanks, Laura. I’m certainly not opposed to quotes, but I definitely want to see more than that from people. Hopefully, we can all just keep encouraging each other to be the best that we can be.

  • Shaun says:

    Quotes mentioned out here were very motivational and inspiring but i liked Nicholas’s view on this whole thing..we really should be informed, educated, trained, and equipped version of yourself.It is nice to write what we like/love but we should not forget to upgrade yourself.

  • Have come from several blogs talking about the 10,000 hours to become an expert theme, this fits right into that.

    We all can start typing tomorrow, but finding our voice, honing it to something that really stands out does not happen overnight.

    The training analogy is very apropos. Thanks for the post!

  • Interesting and provocative title, although your article basically proves that it’s NOT “baloney”! I was expecting an argument toward conformity or something like that. In the end you’re still saying to find your own voice!

  • “Being yourself is great, but it’s even greater when you can be an informed, educated, trained, and equipped version of yourself.”

    Well said.

    The fact of the matter is that 90% of lazy people will always be content in their laziness. Motivational quotes won’t inspire action. Amazing opportunities will go unseized.

    Your message isn’t those kinds of people anyway. The “tire-kickers” of the world.

    On the other hand, the other 10% might need to be shaken up a little bit, but they will pursue growth and excellence.

    It’s so true that we should not be satisfied with ourselves AS WE ARE. If we recognize the potential that lies dormant in us, how can we rest while that brilliant gem us yet unpolished?

    Good article, Nicholas.

  • Right – Too many law of attraction type direction out there telling you to dream it, and it will happen.

    We have to find out for ourselves, that this isn’t going to help but that a combination of visualizing for the purposes of creating excitement and drive (and getting clear on what you want to create), and then actioning on until you get a result, tweaking your approach each time you get feedback, is obviously the strategy.

    We live in a very fairy tale society, where we believe that Santa Claus really comes down from flying a sleigh and drops presents into our chimney, while eating our cookies and milk. It makes sense why people listen to “just be who you are” and end up doing JUST THAT, without the ambition to grow.

    I guess you just have to be smarter. You have to look at the world the way someone who knows nothing about it looks at it, as opposed to looking at it through a lens created from fragments of every person you’ve ever met, and every piece of media you’ve ever consumed.

    One thing is true. Building mental models of what you want to do IS in fact a healthy thing. But not inherently. As you’re saying, taking that mental build into something real, is totally the game. Getting good at the process.. well, now we have something! Woot!

  • Melody O says:

    You make great points that extend far beyond writing skills. (I haven’t read all 28 comments above me, so sorry if this is duplicative.)

    “Be yourself” can once in a while be euphemism for “stop self critique, and be ambivalent.”

    Great article.
    ~Melody

  • Surely when it comes to writing a large part of it depends upon whether you have a good story to tell or not?

    It’s probably a more complex issue depending upon the context, but if your point is simply to be the best you you can be through learning, then hear hear!!

    Learning is about the best thing we can do with our lives, it’s as simple as that.

  • I believe that if you are changing (or improving, for that matter), you are doing it inside the boundaries of your personality.

    I don’t think that people change altogether, but that they only can create different versions of themselves.

    Surely, you should always be trying to make the version that currently makes you the most productive and happiest version of you.

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