Having the Grace to be Bad at Something

By the Drunk Jedi

Kinda Master Your Life by Following the Crooked Path of the Drunk Jedi


It's okay to be a beginner.

It’s okay to be a beginner.


Our passions are funny things. They call to us before we really understand them, promising a kind of fulfillment that will make our lives worthwhile.

Maybe your passion is songwriting. Maybe you’re a painter. Maybe you work in a jungle protecting exotic birds from deforestation. Whatever rocks your mojo, I bet you sucked at it in the beginning.

Come on, you know you did. Passion doesn’t equal skill.

If your passion is songwriting, your first songs sucked balls, didn’t they? If you’re a painter, your early work makes you cringe, right? And if you’re saving those jungle birds, I bet way too many feathers carpeted the jungle floor before you really got the hang of things.

But if we are born to do something, we must strive for it with our whole hearts, even when all the strivings of our hearts amount to crap. For someday, maybe after years of struggle, we finally get good enough at our practice to actually give something of value to the world.

Can you handle being bad at something that’s important to you? Do you have the grace to do something poorly for awhile?

Being bad at something isn’t easy. Most of us can’t handle it. We give up before we become masters—or even good. This is called pride. (And fear, of course, but every “kinda master your life” internet article circles back around to fear, so let’s focus on pride.) It’s understandable. You wanted to play the piano because you saw Yiruma play on TV and it changed your life. However, you can’t play like Yiruma. You can barely pluck out chopsticks. This wasn’t what you wanted! It’s shameful! And it makes you feel bad about yourself more than a little bit.

If you were born to play the piano, but you currently suck at playing the piano, it’s discouraging and humiliating.

Having the grace to be bad at something is an important part of mastering any practice. It’s called learning. It requires humility, persistence, patience, devotion and hours upon hours of attention. Being bad at something for awhile allows us to develop all these key traits, which make us better people over all, and which make us better at whatever it is we do.

Some readers will say this principle doesn’t apply to arts like writing and painting. I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard something like, “There are no rules when it comes to painting. You paint what’s in your heart, and that’s what speaks to people.”

Some people give their lives to the craft of painting, and you think you can slap a brush against a canvas and whip out a gallery blockbuster because “it’s what’s in your heart that holds the power”? Let me speak for all those who have studied their craft for years when I say, “#&%! you.” Passion does not equal skill. Persistent practice does. (Hopefully. There are no guarantees, unfortunately.)

Having the grace to be bad at something applies to the arts, to the sciences, to communication, to lovemaking. It’s at work everywhere. Even if you were born to do something, it won’t necessarily come naturally.

So if something is important to you, put in the time. Have the grace to humble yourself. If you stick with it, your efforts will be grandly rewarded. (Probably.)


L. Marrick is a historical fantasy writer and freelance copywriter. She waxes poetic about swords and the Renaissance Faire at her author blog. She looks all professional-like at her copywriting site. She eats too much chocolate and still doesn’t believe downward dog is supposed to be a restful yoga pose. You can connect with her at either of her websites.

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