My mouth watered as I stared at the giant jar full of Skittles. Our middle school was running a contest. All I had to do was guess how many Skittles were in the jar, and I would win at least a year’s supply. 

Hmm…500, 5,000, 50,000?? No, no. I can’t just guess. I pulled out my math book from beneath a pile of dirty laundry. At minimum, I needed to know the size of one skittle and the volume of the jar. 

As luck would have it, our school was right across the street from the Mars factory (who own the Skittles brand). I walked over to the front desk and asked to speak to a Skittles employee, who generously gave me the radius of one Skittle, which I used to calculate the volume of the candy and the jar. I told him how I planned to calculate the number and he agreed that it was the right method. 

I plugged in the numbers and came to 2,424 skittles. Boom. Bam. Done. The formula was simple…Almost too simple. 

So I second-guessed myself. I pulled out more equations and divided more numbers. It took time. I created more work for myself.

I came to a number I thought was more “reasonable” based on my extra work. I submitted my guess. The next day the results were in. There were 2,424 Skittles in the jar. Dammit. I should’ve stayed with my original answer!

My college SAT prep teacher would yell, “Your first answer is usually correct!” And 76er basketball fans would shout the mantra “trust the process!” Had I been more confident and stuck to the formula, then I would have won. 

But I needed an underlying belief and experience that I didn’t have at the time. One that goes against the grain of what society had drilled into my adolescent brain: Nothing worth having ever comes easy.’  This is perhaps the biggest lie we’ve been told.

When you leverage your strengths, it shouldn’t feel like you’re pushing a 1,000 ton train up a mountain. It should be easy. But when you focus on your weakness, you’ll bust your balls and become mediocre at best. 

This lesson reflects good career advice: Gravitate towards what you find easy (and possibly fun) and then work on it for a long time.

It brings to mind a quote I heard recently: 

“In a billion dollar company, the employees aren’t working any harder than people in a million dollar company. They’re just doing the right things.”

– Naval Ravikant 

Some quick tips to make sure you’re not working too hard. 

Here are three powerful questions to ask yourself in the context of a decision you have to make, a big project, or a career choice: 

  1. How am I getting in my own way? 
  2. What would this look like if it were easy? 
  3. Am I focusing on growing my strengths (which come easily) or trying to smoothen out my weaknesses (which don’t come easily?)

When you’re stuck, ask these questions to help prevent self-sabotage and so that you don’t miss out on the jar of Skittles that’s inches away!

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