It’s Great to Suck at Something

It’s Great to Suck at Something - Episode 158 of The Slow Home Podcast

In a recent New York Times article, journalist Karen Rinaldi ruminated on the benefits of sucking at things:

“The notion of sucking at something flies in the face of the overhyped notion of perfectionism. The lie of perfectionism goes something like this: “If I fail, it’s only because I seek perfection.” Or “I can never finish anything because I’m a perfectionist.” Since the perfectionist will settle for nothing less, she is left with nothing…

“By taking off the pressure of having to excel at or master an activity, we allow ourselves to live in the moment.”

When I read this article (thanks for the heads up, Clare!) I basically fist-pumped myself with joy, because there is so much in this idea that I think we need to embrace. Not only that it’s OK to not be a world-beater in everything (or anything) we do, but also the idea that if we let go of our need to do something like a boss we actually free ourselves up to enjoy the hell out of the thing we’re doing, regardless of performance.

This is me when I snowboard. I’m fairly middling, will never be much more than that and that’s OK. The interesting thing is that once I stopped worrying about my ability and stopped comparing myself unfavourably to the ballers who would rip past me at the top of every run, I began enjoying it a whole lot more. Now I focus on the fact that I’m on a mountain. I’m sliding down that mountain on a piece of wood. I’m having fun doing it. The wind is whistling in my ears and the sun is on my back and I’m outside and breathing cold air and I’M ALIVE. That’s the important part of it for me. The doing, the playing, the being. Not the striving or the lamentation.

In this poggie Ben and I unpack this idea of sucking, and why there is so much to gain by being bad at things. We also talk about meditation and why, like I discussed with Sarah Wilson recently, it’s actually incredibly beneficial to not be good at it. And we also talk about the joy and delight that lies in allowing ourselves to be beginners, forever learning.

This is a really fun episode that doesn’t have a specific action to take away, but rather a question for you to think on over the next few days. What’s something you enjoy doing simply for the fun of it? And how can you learn to embrace the power of sucking at it? 



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12 Responses to It’s Great to Suck at Something

  1. I can’t believe there is a podcast on this! I just recently had this same sort of epiphany that everyone should have a hobby they suck at. Like Clare, for me it’s also surfing. I’ve loved surfing for so many years and even went to Bali to practice more. I used to take it really seriously and I got so anxious before I even got in the water and I would always end up comparing myself to the more experienced surfers. But I found this quote which changed my whole perspective. (I’ll admit I did find it scrolling through Pinterest)
    “The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun.” – Duke Kahanamoku
    This quote now applies to so many aspects of my life. Letting go of my own expectations is liberating. It’s such a privilege to be able to be in the ocean and I’m so grateful every time I get the chance to take my board out. I’ve finally let go of the idea of perfectionism and I get so much out of even just floating on my board out behind the breakers or catching white wash waves.
    I’m so glad I had this realisation and I’m stoked I’m not the only one recognising it.

    Thank you for your podacasts and for inspiring a community of like minded people.

  2. For me…its the guitar. I’m learning to play and I’m a total beginner. I love playing but have no major need to play for anyone besides my family. I agree with your thoughts. It’s a great way to hobby!

  3. It couldn’t be funnier that I found your message with exactly this topic in my inbox this morning! Yesterday, I was surfing and it was yet another surf throughout which I felt like a complete beginner. My timing was off, I made the wrong decisions, I fell when trying to do the take off, I got washed, I lost my board more than a couple of times while negotiating the waves, and, above all, I even hit myself with my own board, leaving me with a small cut and a bruise on my chin. Sidenote: I live and work at a surfcamp and all around me there’s ambitious surfers, new beginners accomplishing their first goals, there’s improvement all around me. And me, I feel like I’ve been stuck on a mediocre level for ages. But maybe that’s exactly where I need to be. And maybe to free myself from all expectation and ambition is what will actually help me enjoy it even more.
    Anyways, thank you sooooo much for this podcast! This is exactly what I needed. I just hope that next time in the water I’ll be able to recall this feeling and set my mind up for simply enjoying and being present!

  4. Oh my gosh! I had this problem when I was in Canada earlier this year. I went there to go snowboarding and I didn’t have a great time because I was comparing myself all the time. This is weird because I know I suck at running but I do it anyway. There are always better runners, but I couldn’t make myself see the same thing when snowboarding!

    I will keep this in mind for sure on my next trip!

  5. This was a great podcast today! Tennis and surfing have taught me this lesson. The ocean teaches you many life lessons about being in the moment and having fun. In regards to tennis, I’ve played tennis competitively (non-professional) for many years. Last year I picked it up after many many years of not playing and I sucked! I was so embarrassed but my tennis partners were so supportive and played just for fun. It’s the first time I stoped being competitive and had fun. Thanks for the great topic today!

  6. I was terrible at sports as a child. Always the last one to picked for a team. Thankfully my career in trade and domestic ladders manufacture does not require me to be sporty at all

  7. My first thought was yoga. I suck at it, but I like it so much that I keep doing it. I do hope to get better, but my goal is not to become a yogi or a teacher, I just do it because of how it makes my body feel and the peace it brings me. However I consider myself a lifetime learner anyways, I like to make things with my hands, arts and crafts and whatnot. And I usually pick things that I want to learn. For example, I want to learn to knit, so I pick a project and start learning. I enjoy the learning process more than becoming good at it.

  8. Oh thank you for putting my feelings into words and validating them!! I recently bought a new spinning wheel after a spinning hiatus for a year. And I have found that I only like to use it at certain times when I am feeling stressed and want to slow down and need to just focus on the feeling of wool moving through my fingers. I’ve wondered to myself if I should use it more and work on improving technique and feel guilty about not using my expensive wheel all the time but I just havent felt the desire to follow any of those feelings and this just spoke to my soul!!! I am totally ok at “sucking” at spinning. I don’t want to feel any pressure around that activity and it feels so sacred and special because I am allowing it to just BE!!! I can’t imagine how amazing life would feel if every activity was like that…. but for now I’m pretty psyched to know I have one activity I can turn to for that freedom.

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