There is a difference in knowing what you are good at and know what you are good for.
I once wrote a poem during a study hall in high school. At the time, I was proud of it and I thought that I was good at it too. It was about how I didn’t think I was capable of loving my girlfriend. I remember one line being “I’m almost certain.” I showed this poem to my girlfriend the next day. I thought it was beautiful. She started to cry. She didn’t want to know that I would never be able to love her, or that I had made a mistake, even if it was honest and poetic. I was good at writing it, but what was I good for? Really, what was I good for in that moment?
Other moments like that plague me. I once said to some friends of mine that I wouldn’t hug my parents if I was being given an award for which they were to join me on stage. I said this because I couldn’t see anything other than my selfish and childish perspective. I was good at compartmentalizing, and I still am. I’m just not sure what I was good for just then.
Then there was today. Today I said a lot of things about networked learning and about how to use a Learning Management Systems. I said them well. I was good at saying them. I also thoroughly confused nearly everyone I talked with at one point or another. I didn’t and couldn’t answer all of the questions that people had. I didn’t and couldn’t resolve every problem that others encountered. I said it was because I wanted to get them to their muddiest point because that was where learning happens. I think that’s true, but I’m also good at making up things that sound nice like that. The frustrated and tired looks by the end of the day did not give me a concrete idea of what I was good for.
And yet, that girlfriend and I still talk on occasion. We got over my being good for nothing because she knew that the things I was good at were enough for a friendship. My parents and I have gotten over that rough patch too. I would hug them without hesitation now. It took me understanding that the things I was good at, they are good at too, that we aren’t all that different after all. I may not have been good for much as their teenage son, but as an adult I provide something to them (not just grandchildren) that they can’t easily replicate. I’m good for crafting the new story of our family together.
I guess that is what I am good for in Professional Development too. I’m good at showing others how to start writing their own stories. I’m good for those stories getting off the ground. I’m good at presenting information and taking people through a process from one idea to the next. I’m good for those ideas growing and maturing into the repositories of knowledge that we all crave so deeply.
I know what I am good for only by seeing the ways in which people would like to use me. If I can see the role that I can fulfill for others, then I can see my use. And being useful is the only way that I can be good for others. Otherwise, I’m just good AT a few things. And that is when I write insensitive poems or make unfeeling statements or lead people off into the woods by themselves to die without a compass or map as to how to navigate.
Good for > Good at