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!