Heart And Mind Matters

Let go of being good at___

close up shot of a gold medal on a black surface

I saw a beautiful, powerful message last week and found myself wishing I would’ve seen the message when I was a teenager. It might have changed my life. I can’t tell you why until you read this message:

Kurt Vonnegut wrote: “When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archaeological dig. I was talking to one of the archaeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kind of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: “Do you play sports? What’s your favourite subject?” And I told him, “no, I don’t play any sports. I do theatre, I’m in choir, I playth4e violin and piano, I used to take art classes.”

And he went, “WOW. That’s amazing!”

And I said, “No.  I’m not 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 make 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’s message made me reflect on my past… and see the uncomfortable similarity of our youth.

You see, my father had high expectations for my ‘success’. He taught me that I had to be the best at whatever I tried. The upside of this is that when I was good at something – and it looked like I would ‘win’ – I was willing to go the extra mile to be successful.

On the other hand, in my desire to please my dad and be an achiever, I decided I should give up on anything that I wasn’t good at. Since being successful was the most important thing, it was better to quit than risk failing. I actually quit chemistry in high school because I wasn’t doing well in the class; it seemed wiser to quit than risk losing my straight-A average!

That’s just one example.  I hate to admit that I’ve left behind a trail of stopping because I might not succeed – even giving up things I might enjoy doing. If doing something didn’t lead to some sort of success, what was the point in doing it?  (That thought is a dream squasher, let me tell you!)

Questioning whether or not I could succeed (at a subconscious level, of course) leads to doubt… and eventually to a fear of not being enough. It’s fascinating how a belief like this can snowball…

Rather than go into the deeper layers of all this, I’ll keep this blog short by ending with gratitude. I’m thankful for seeing this message and the personal reflection this brought me.

I wonder, if someone had told me at 15 what that archaeologist told Kurt at 15, would my life have been different?  Probably. However, it’s never too late.

I could choose now to let go of having to achieve some level of success at everything I do; step into doing things even if I’m not naturally good at them. I could do things just because I might learn more and become a more interesting person for having done them.  Or I could even do more things just for the pure enjoyment of doing them. What a concept!

How good it would feel to be ok with falling short of high standards of success… since doing things for the joy of doing them would likely breed success anyway… without the self-imposed pressure!

I’m curious… do you relate to any of this? Does this message make an impact on you? Or were you blessed to grow up enjoying a broader range of experiences in your life because you simply enjoy trying many things without the pressure to achieve results? 

Write to us at and let us know.

 Or call me on my cell at 403-860-7311 and we can chat about it.

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