Tribute to Truby: Don’t Get Discouraged!

Here is a note of encouragement for the students and career changers in your family — or anyone undertaking a challenge.

When you start something new, whether imposed or by choice, you might not be very good at it. In fact, you might be quite awful. But with dedication, initiative — and a good teacher – you can forge a path to something fabulous and rewarding.

Flashback: An exciting course offering for English majors at Indiana University of Pa. Journalistic Writing, taught by the cocky, sardonic and totally entertaining J. David Truby (left, in photo). Featuring creativity, real-world scenarios and assignments in the field. Everything I loved.

But early reviews of classwork were not encouraging.

“No conclusions. No quotes. No critique. No good.”
“As interpretation, it’s fine, I guess. As a news story, it is not too good. I hope you have a nice weekend.”

Ouch. But keep at it.

“You have a great deal of material here. Some of it is quite good, while some of it is filler. In any case, I like the first two examples very much.”

A good teacher can help pinpoint strengths and weaknesses. Maybe even career DNA.

“OK, N.A., You chose to satirize the assignment. It is cute, well-written and very clever. It does not meet the assignment. Do you want a job as an ad writer in NYC? If so, see me. I think you’d do well. J.D.”

Now going for a big get. For an interview assignment, I discovered that a powerful federal enforcer had retired nearby. Harry Anslinger was the first U.S. drug czar, serving five presidents. He proffered lively comments about J. Edgar Hoover, Frank Sinatra and mafia dons.

“The more I think about your work and ambition in talking to Mr. Anslinger and compare it to what so many ofhers did…I’m giving you an ‘A’ for extra credit work.”

Closing with a satisfying win. A prospectus for a new women’s magazine, dubbed Winning!

“Great. I wish I had $20 million to invest!!”

Our memories re-play wins and successes. But there are always false starts and missteps we like to forget. If you are a keeper of files and artifacts,you might even have the actual documentation. Very humbling.

Lack of initial success doesn’t mean you’re not good at something. You’re not necessarily bad or untalented. It might just mean you’re not good yet.

Just take a cue from J. David Truby, inspirer and critic, now professor emeritus.

Get better. Listen and learn. Practice. Make mistakes. Keep going. Have fun. Enjoy the journey!

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One Comment

  1. Great blog read! Thanks for sharing! This blog succinctly tells the innovation that education should be about – not perfection but continued practice and a journey towards excellence! I’m sharing with our students!

Copyright © 2012 Nancy Keene