When Being Bad is OK!
It’s ok to be bad at something so long as you are willing to try again. If you don’t try again, you will always be bad at it. I’ve heard people say, he’s good at everything he does…not talking about me, for sure. I wonder if they really believe it or is it just an excuse for them not to try to be better themselves.
When I was 15, I asked my dad, a natural athlete, to teach me to golf. When he swung the club, it was smooth. When I would swing the club, it was erratic, and I missed the ball. I exclaimed that the club did not feel comfortable. I felt that I was really bad at golf.
Dad agreed that I had a bad swing. He agreed that the club felt uncomfortable. He even expressed reservations that I would be able to hit the ball. But, he never said I would be bad golfer. He said, “You have to be bad at something before you can ever be good at something.” He explained that people who are bad at something
and never try again, will always be bad at it.
When dad was a youngster, there weren’t any TV’s. Kids in the neighborhood, played ball, every day during the summer, and evenings and week ends during the school year… softball, baseball, football, kick ball, tennis and even golf. As he got older, he caddied at the county club and learned the game.
How many pitches did he throw until he was good enough to be recruited by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1940? How many strikes did he have before he was consistently hitting fastballs. I remember when dad played in as many as three softball leagues during the same season.
I don’t think Dad was a natural athlete. I believe he just studied and practiced the game more than anyone around him. So do we have natural athletes or do we have individuals who have become good athletes by developing and practicing their skills?
Geoff Colvin’s book, Talent Is Overrated, gives hope to anyone who wants to get better at any task. Research showed that it takes about 1000 hours to develop a skill or what we may call a talent. They concluded that anyone who commits to developing a skill or talent could succeed.
Conversely, someone who shows a propensity for a certain skill, (at 5 years old he can hit a baseball), but becomes satisfied that he is a natural and does not practice, will be passed by the 8 year old who just learned to hit the ball a year ago.
Example: Two individuals who start on their 1000 hour journey, may work at different paces. At any given point in time, one may appear more talented because he has more hours of practice. If 1000 hours of practice takes 5 years to accomplish, that person will appear to have more talent.
The key to the successful development of a skill or talent is to never quit practicing/growing. If there is any credence to a natural talent, I will still opt for the individual who is willing to develop and grow over the “natural talent” who doesn’t need to practice anymore.
I’ve seen very talented young people give up on their gift, change focus, and start to develop a new skill or talent. Even though they are good at their first talent, they will now start out bad as they develop their new skill. It is important to recognize that just because you are good at one thing, does not mean that you will automatically be good at something else. Developing the new skill/talent will require the same amount of work/practice/study as the first skill/talent.
We have to become bad at something before we can become good at something. The difference between bad and good is a function of vision, focus, commitment and time. We already recognize that a baby’s first step does not have to be perfect. Even when the baby falls down, we encourage him to get up and get his steps in order. He must be a bad walker before he becomes a good walker.
Can you imagine a parent saying, “Well, it looks like we have another bad walker. At least we’ll save money on shoes. He can just crawl around.” Not acceptable. We commit to practice. We develop the walking skill. If we continue, the child may become a runner or dancer…a talent way beyond learning to walk.
So when is it ok to be bad? When we are willing to try again. We get better through practice and repetition. But we have to start somewhere. The second time will be better than the first time. We have to be bad at something before we can be good at it.
Vision. Focus. Commitment. Time. These are the four elements that will move us from bad to good. Quitting interrupts the 1000 hour journey to success. People, who we recognize as leaders, successful businessmen, athletes or entertainers, will describe long hours of practice, study and mentoring in order to reach their success. They will also report many opportunities to quit. They will report failures that became learning experiences…they went from bad to good.
It’s OK to be bad on your way to being good. Don’t quit. Just try again.
Dr R. B. Liposky