It's good to be bad (at something)

It's good to be bad (at something)

Most people are good at the things they do. Or else they don't do them.

Swimmers who flail and churn typically give up—so we never see them. Singers who can't carry a tune don't make records. People who can't ride a bike, don't.

Studies show that it's good for the adult brain to learn new skills. 

But enjoying being bad at something? That's different.

That's leaning into the awkward. Celebrating (dare I name it) incompetence.

When finesse is so highly respected, we rarely go all in on something fun but hard to master.

In times of my greatest insecurity, I try to teach myself something new. At first, I royally stink. And then maybe I don't. But mastery isn't the point.

I'm the flailer and the edge of the pool, practicing flip turn after flip turn until I'm dizzy. 

I will never be good at the ukulele.

I bought one in memory of my friend Susan's husband Pete. He played it so sweetly when he was alive and I wanted to remember him that way. From one sitting to the next I can't remember the chords, but I know that's not the point.

I still can't ride my unicycle outside.

When I bought the wheelie guy in a resale shop, it was the right size for my son and I to take turns without adjusting the seat. We watched YouTube videos and broke out our ski poles for balance. The basement walls are still streaked with black rubber.

Lately, I've been hacking my way through an improv class. Next I’ll try tai chi. Then a drop-in sketch class with nude models. 

Today, failure is all the rage. Among people who give TED talks and whose companies go public.

Sara Blakely, the billionaire founder of Spanx, recalls that as a child her failures were high-fived at the dinner table.

Pema Chodron’s best-selling book—Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better—is based on her speech to young people who had just completed a rigorous four-year education.

I do believe it’s true: Out of vulnerability and the feeling of failure come our best human qualities—bravery, kindness, and the ability to really care about others.

But must we be "successful" before we can label our foibles as failures?  

There are so many ways it’s good to be bad. Why not have fun?

Take up knitting and wear an imperfect garment you made by hand.

Salvage a pair of ice skates and slide awkwardly on a pond.

Write a silly poem and teach it to a child.

And for Pete's sake. Please don't turn fun into failure.

What's my (through) line?

What's my (through) line?

False (and true) dichotomies

False (and true) dichotomies