Learn to be satisfied with what you’re good at

By Baxter Black: PNT columnist

Sometimes the best advice one can get is the least appreciated. I’m reminded of this observation when I hear of the honest, some would say cruel, comments the English judge Simon makes to mediocre contestants on American Idol.
But blunt doesn’t necessarily have to be cruel.
I had a nice visit with a fellow New Mexico State alumni who was a student when my father was the dean of agriculture. This man, we’ll call him Don, was six months into a master’s program with the idea of becoming a college professor. Don told me he received a call from the dean’s secretary. He responded and was ushered into my father’s office, who addressed him, “I’ve just toured a new slaughterhouse in the state and they are looking for a manager to run it. I think you are the man for the job!”
Don objected. He was studying for a master’s degree. He had other plans. According to Don, my father said, “You’re never going to make it in the academic world. You’re too hot-headed. You’d never fit in, you might as well face that now.”
Don quit school, took the job and has become a successful ag businessman.
I’ve offered unsolicited straight talk myself. Although the recipients don’t always take it, I’ve not regretted doing it. While speaking at a veterinary school years ago I met a brilliant older veterinary student. She was admired by her younger classmates and had assumed a leadership role. After two days of being in her company and watching her organize, lead and minister to her classmates I asked what she intended to do.
“Go to graduate school and teach,” she said.
I gave it some thought and before I left I privately told her that she should not become a teacher; that she would be a detriment to the profession as well as herself; that she would become overbearing once she had authority; that in spite of all her attributes she lacked humility. Were she to do private practice, her animal patients might teach her that humility. But she would never learn it from books.
And I, too, have had unwanted observations come clear as years go by. I remember the first time I was on the Ralph Emery Show in Nashville. It was the result of some of my country music friends recommending me. I told a few poems and was a hit. After the show my friends took me out to dinner. I was on cloud nine. They could tell.
“Is there anything else you’d like?” they asked, smiling.
“Well,” I said, “I’d like somebody famous to cut one of the songs I wrote.”
My friend exclaimed, “I don’t believe it! Every poet I know thinks he’s a songwriter! Every songwriter thinks he’s a singer, every singer thinks he’s an actor, and every actor thinks he’s a poet! Why can’t you be satisfied with what yer good at!”
So I’ve learned to be content with being a poet, but every now and them I’ll hear some new singer and think, “Ya know, that song I wrote for Loretta Lynn back in 1983 would sure be good for this new girl.” But a little time goes by and I let it go … with a sigh.

Baxter Black is a self-described cowboy poet, ex-veterinarian and sorry team roper. He can be contacted at 1-800-654-2550 or by e-mail at: