On the importance of doing things badly

Driving to fencing practice the other day, it occurred to me that there’s one thing my experiences with fencing, running, singing, writing, and any number of other tested and abandoned hobbies and would-be careers has taught me.

And that’s that, most people can learn most things … if we’re willing to be really bad at them first.

It’s not always worth it. Sometimes, being bad at something makes me realize I didn’t really want it to begin with. Sometimes being bad is too little fun for too little payoff, and I move on. It’s okay to make that choice to move on–and to admit it’s a choice, too.

And of course, the amount of time one has to spend being bad at any given thing will vary from activity to activity–and from person to person.

But except in rare cases (no amount of willingness to be bad at things will get me up Everest and down again), I think the willingness to be really, really bad at things is a crucial first step to doing anything new. It’s only after we get over the fear of doing things badly that we can move forward to learning how to do them well.

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