Why You Need To Be Really Bad At Something In Order To be Really Good At Something Else

trampoline woman falling

Photo: Pawel Loj via Flickr

We hear a lot about specialisation, and how important it is to find a niche for yourself in the workforce. Phil Johnson writes in Ad Age that “in a world that rewards mastery, and the desire to get to that level that drives us to extremes of specialisation,” we need to actually veer from our comfort zone and participate in activities where we have “little or no obvious talent.”

But why would you put yourself through this humiliation?

Because this “uncomfort zone” actually places you in learning mode and is a “dose of humility and an ego check.” He says that when you do go back to your daily schedule, you’ll be a more creative, intelligent, eager-to-learn person. Inevitably, you’ll “get even better at the things that [you] do well.”

Johnson writes: 

We spend our lives developing degrees of competency in our jobs and other areas that seem to come easily, weeding out all the activities where we are convinced that we lack aptitude. In business, that means that some of us end up managing accounts, while other people dream up creative ideas, and still others write code.

The more we compartmentalise our talents, the more we fear straying from the proven formula that got us where we are. It gets harder to colour outside the lines and to try something really stupid, just to see what happens. That caution represents the first step on the road to boredom and mediocrity. That’s the death of innovation and creativity.

So if you’re really bad at golf or snowboarding — and you know you are — take a chance and let go of your fear of embarrassment. The bottom line is you have to experience things you are bad at to improve on the things you are good at. 

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