Excelling Vs. Enriching

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of ‘getting to know you’ questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went ‘WOW. That’s amazing!’ And I said, ‘Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.’

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: ‘I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.’

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could ‘Win’ at them” (Kurt Vonnegut).

That concept flies in the face of 99% of the current culture. We’re supposed to narrow down our hobbies and pursuits to find what we’re really good at so we can focus on that and excelling at one thing instead of being mediocre at many things. Yet in the meantime, we lose out on all those things we weren’t as good at.

It’s important to find something you excel at, but it’s also important to do things and try new things and experience things as a means of enriching your life, even if you’re terrible at them. Whether it’s music or art or dance or writing, you can accept the fact that you’re no prodigy and simply learn to have fun and enjoy the process of bringing something new into the world, regardless of whether it’s a masterpiece or not. It’s really about you becoming a more rounded, interesting individual with lots of varied experiences.

Plus, you may find something you really may grow into being an expert at, but you won’t know until you start somewhere. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth it for the trying and the experience.

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