Do What You Know and Don’t Fail

by Jim Stovall

In this life, people who fail don’t fail because they don’t know what to do; they fail because they don’t do what they know. All of us intellectually understand skills and principles that would make us successful and help us reach our goals, but we often fail to do the things we know how to do.

It is very easy to underestimate our own skills and talent. Each of us has areas of strength and expertise. The world is becoming more and more specialized. Those who would succeed will generally be a leading expert in a very specific, often narrow, field. People who know how to do a great number of tasks often have no area where they are a leading expert. They simply have a lot of things they can do adequately.

We all have a value in the marketplace based on the service we provide or the skill we bring to the table. We are valued based on how highly sought-after is our skill, how hard is our skill to learn, and how much or little do other people want to perform the tasks involving the skill we have.

You may have an individual who mows your lawn. Hopefully, they do a good job, and you pay them a fair wage. You may also have a physician who is treating you for a certain condition. Hopefully, the physician is taking good care of you, and he is being well compensated for his efforts. The difference in the market value between these two people who provide services for you is immense. This is because you can learn most all of what you need to know to mow the lawn in a few hours. In order to function as a highly specialized physician, it can take more than a decade.

The thing that too many people miss is the fact that skills are rarely, if ever, transferable. The lawn worker would not be able or even allowed to practice medicine. The physician could begin doing lawn work, but he would quite probably be a below-average lawn mower even though he had been an above-average physician. Even if the physician enjoyed cutting grass and was very good at it, he would only be compensated at the level of a lawn worker, not a physician.

Too many people, professionally, spend their time, effort, and energy doing things outside of their core skills. Remember, if someone can perform a task as well or better than you, and you can buy or rent their expertise at a rate lower than you charge for your skill, you should have them doing the jobs they are qualified for and you should stick to and build on your area of expertise.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author, columnist, and motivational speaker. He may be reached at 5840 S. Memorial Dr., Suite 312, Tulsa, OK 74145-9082, or by e-mail at

Updated 03-30-2005

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