No B.S Friday: Success grows out of a compost pit of failure. But most people are afraid of compost.
You see it a lot in children. Some kids are ok with not being good at something. But then other kids will have no interest in pursuing a task they’re not immediately good at.
And then there’s a lot of adults like that too.
And that’s a problem.
Because success almost always requires learning a new skill. Taking your life in a new direction definitely involves learning a new skill.
But to learn a skill worth learning involves a period of sucking. If the skill is so easy that you can be immediately good at it, then it’s so common as to be worthless.
And so we have to be able to through that awkward phase where we suck at something.
And some people just can’t handle that.
Well, in the quick Google search I just did, it turns out most of us are labouring with something the psychologists call ‘conditional self-worth.’
This is an idea we tend to pick up in childhood that we are intrinsically worthy and loveable, but instead, our lovability is conditional on our ability to ‘be special’, or ‘be of service’ or something like that.
Such a poisonous idea.
I kind of imagine that some point in our history, before the social fabric got torn apart by kings and queens hell-bent on power, a good chunk of our cultural conditioning would have been focused on making sure that we knew that we were inherently lovable.
But that’s not what we’ve got.
Instead, we have a pandemic of ‘conditional self worth’.
And one of the symptoms is that we become very focused on tasks that tick the box of conditionality.
The question is not, is this task useful, or fun, or in service to the greater human story – which is how it should be.
Instead the question is, does this task make me seem special? Does it make me more lovable? Does it make me appear ‘better’ than others?
When you’re deciding where your energies should go, that’s the wrong filter to be using.
And particularly because it makes you shy about doing things you suck at. You don’t want to ‘look silly’.
That stops us doing the things we need to do to be successful.
And even if we can corral our selves into learning a new skill or something, we then want to rush through the awkward learning phase. We want to leap straight into the expert phase.
But that rush mindset isn’t helpful either. To learn a skill well we need to learn a skill deeply.
We need to really take the time and let it land in our bodies and minds.
So in two ways, the unwillingness to suck at something really holds us back.
And so what do we do?
Well, the first part is moving from conditional to unconditional self-worth. That’s a journey, and maybe I’ll talk a little bit more about that over the coming weeks.
But it could be as simple as just recognising that many of us have this tendency, and training ourselves to not run from sucking at something. Recognise that it’s part of the journey, and let yourself enjoy being awkward and goofy.
It’s worked for me.