What does it mean to be bad at something?
I’m bad at tennis, public speaking, blow-drying hair, parallel parking, and making pork chops.
I would imagine that all of us could easily come up with a list of things that we are bad at. I’ve got a REALLY long list. The list above is full of stuff that probably doesn’t matter; there are things that are on my “bad” list that I’m truly chagrined about. Character flaws like impatience, carelessness, and pettiness.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about talent and lack of talent, and when we are good at things and bad at things.
The same person in my family who can’t figure out the DVR is able to give precise driving directions, complete with a description of visuals and landmarks, over the phone. Yet another, who often seems to have the attention span of a gnat, read Crime and Punishment, “for fun,” over the course of months, often during noisy car rides and sporting events. One of my kids, a self-professed “bad at math” kid, is massively organized, never late, finishes assignments early, and always has time for leisure reading and television. That same kid had trouble figuring out the difference between adding and subtracting when she was six. Is she good at math today? No, not especially. It’s just that no one notices or cares because she’s so tidy and reliable in so many ways. She uses a calculator if she needs to figure out math.
If you think carefully about what people are good and bad at, the lines start to blur. After a point, it seems ridiculous to complain about someone’s defects, because you can always find attributes that are so amazing, you start to wonder if it’s fair to say that anyone has a “defect” at all.
I’ve tried to bring this way of looking at people full circle, to myself. I’m sometimes impatient, sometimes harsh, sometimes distracted and forgetful. I’ve also got focus, drive, and can untie most knots with ease. I’m good at making Asian food. My bad memory is really useful in that I’m usually forgiving when people annoy me–because I end up forgetting the incident.
I think “untalented” is just a misplaced word.