What Do You Suck At?

July 31, 2012

This article title caught my attention.  Debated skipping by without reading it, but it did its job—it pulled me in.  The premise was that if we embrace the things we suck at, stop pretending we’re good at everything, or know everything, people will feel less threatened so we’ll have more friends, feel less stressed from having to work so hard, and life will be better.

All of which I pretty much agree with.  And yet.  Something about the black and whiteness of ‘what do I suck at’ struck me as missing some point.  So I sat with it.  And here’s what I came up with.

It’s all on a continuum.  At one end there are a few things I’m really good at.  At the other end there are some areas where you definitely do not want to put me in charge.  And then in between there are lots and lots of things I can do that don’t generate either significant passion or angst.

And then I realized something else.  On the whole, that means I’m average.  OMG!  Maybe we’re all average?!  We’re all  good at some stuff, not very good at other stuff, and somewhere in the middle with the rest of it.  At first, my stomach got a bit queasy when I thought the word ‘average’.  Because I’ve lived most of my life thinking if I work hard enough, I can do anything.  I’m not delusional–I know that my lack of spatial sense and nonexistent sense of direction makes me a poor candidate for navigator or mechanical engineer.  On some level, though, I’ve always thought I needed to be the best, or at least do my best, at whatever I attempted.  But as I sat with it, this idea that at first made me feel sort of nauseated, started feeling interesting, even liberating!

If I put all my energy into everything, do my best at everything, does that water me down and make it harder for me to capitalize on and enjoy what I’m really good at?  If I’m exerting myself at 100% all the time, is there any space to burrow down into something that truly gets my juices going?  Would we have a Michael Phelps, Gloria Steinem, Einstein, Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King if they had to be the best at everything?

I’ll bet my left lung that Einstein and Mother Teresa would not have shined in gym class, nor would they have worried about being the best at it.  I bet they’d have gotten ‘F’s!  But unlike me in my Latin class, I’m thinking they wouldn’t have tortured themselves with how much they sucked at something.  They would have been too busy focusing on what got their juices going, figuring out what makes the universe work and saving one soul at a time.  Notice that each of these people were passionate about totally different things.  What they have in common is that they were able to remove the barriers to noticing the passion that was already in them, just waiting to be expressed.

Turns out people and the human condition fascinate me, so I’m good at being interestedand curious about what makes us tick, and then sharing what I learn.  Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas because I can eat, sleep and drink that stuff.  I’m also pretty good at seeing behind and under the surface of things, and making connections and translating learnings from one situation to another.

At the same time, I suck at cooking without a recipe, noticing details, and learning new languages (I tried Spanish three times before I stopped worrying about it), and you do not want me riding shotgun and giving you directions.  (You also don’t want me driving and talking—you want to drive if we have a lot to talk about :).

If you didn’t have to be the best at everything, if you were just average like the rest of us, is there anything you’d worry about less?  Devote less time trying to master?  And if you freed up some of that energy, is there anything you’d dive into that you haven’t pursued deeply because you’ve been making yourself crazy with trying to be the best at everything?  I’d love to hear so please click on comments and share your ideas!


    • robyn1001 says:

      Hey Chris, so glad it resonated. I’m hoping I remember it the next time I get crazed at not being very good at something. Maybe it’ll open the door to just enjoying things more without the harsh evaluating and comparing I can fall into! Best, Robyn

  1. scott says:

    I’ve never really been an expert at any one thing. I’ve tried to learn a lot about a lot of different things. Technology is something I really love, so that’s where I choose to have my career. It lets me stay in touch with my passion and earn some money at the same time. As a parent, that’s the only thing I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to master. But I think the same can be said for most parents. Since there’s no “manual” on how to raise a kid step by step, it’s a learning process forever. And wow what a challenge! But a fun one all the same, taking the good with the bad.

    For me it’s always been more important to stay flexible in what I learn. I can more easily adapt to different situations that way. The key to it all, and I think this goes back to a previous posting you made Robyn, is knowing it’s okay not to be the expert in everything, recognizing when you’re in over your head, and keeping your pride in check to get help when you need it.

    • robyn1001 says:

      Yes Scott, that pride thing is what I arrived at for myself with this one–challenging the idea that I should be anything other than what I am. And when I sort of let go of that, all kinds of space seems to open up to make room for what I’m really drawn to and enlivened by. Thanks for your reactions! Robyn

  2. Lisa says:

    What do I suck at? My first reaction was of course, how much time do we have to discuss that very long list? It’s interesting that I have similar areas where I suck as do you. Sans the cooking and noticing details (some types of details I completely miss). Overall, I feel as you do, that there are continuums for most everything in life and I slide my way back and forth all the time. I agree with the comments by Scott that being flexible and accepting my own mathematical, directional, and many other limitations is key, yet continuing to learn more about the things that I don’t suck at or maintaining my desire to learn new things. Which will ultimately end up in the I suck at this too list! or Hey, I’m not too bad at this…list Thanks for keeping us thinking & reflecting.

    • robyn1001 says:

      Loved this Lisa–how cool is it to get to the point where ‘huh, i notice i suck at this’ becomes information rather than another board to beat ourselves over the head with! Thanks, Robyn

  3. Dick says:

    Robyn, I think I do not spend enough time doing what I excel at (my natural-born gifts), and really deeply enjoy, because I am too distracted by many things that I like, enjoy doing, or think I might like to try. I am too interested in too many things, for the alotted time. I’m currently trying to change this and just flat out letting go of what I consider “would be, might be nice,” but over here are “things I love doing, would do for nothing, and might even die for.” I want to spend my remaining time “over here.”

    • robyn1001 says:

      Hi Dick. Really great that you’ve figured out what matters to you–now the challenge is doing it! For me part of the challenge was to build the base to support me–I needed lots of time and energy to create the structure for it. So for many years I did as much of what I loved as possible, while putting things in place so I could do more of it. You seem like distraction rather than support or opportunity is the issue for you, so seems like you’re right, mindfulness, letting go, and behaving in ways that are consistent with your values and natural talents are all serving you. Best, Robyn

    • robyn1001 says:

      Hi Carol–great to hear from you! Yes! Whoever you are right now, strengths, limitations, warts and all–absolutely perfect! Best, Robyn

  4. marty says:

    My father always said he just wanted us to be average. I think being average is good because what I can do better than average shines a little brighter. I think average is good……and what I suck at is balanced by the things I do better than average.

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