Indeed. It is okay to be useless at many things.
Don’t believe the hype; you don’t have to be good at everything you do. Strive for perfection if you must, but don’t waste a short lifetime on trying to be perfect at everything. Striving for perfection at everything is a distraction at best; a disease at worst.
I am useless at a lot of things, and on this page you will find out a few. It doesn’t bother me because I have got a licence, and you’ll also find out what that licence is shortly. In fact it is this licence that makes my life worth living. It is this licence that guarantees that when I look back at my life in however many years’ time that I will smile and utter, “una vida bien vivida” (which by the way means “a life well lived” in Spanish; possibly the only Spanish I know thanks to the San Miguel Lager advert).
And if you have got that licence, you too are in a good place. Be confident; hold your head high; stick your chest out; you are useless but proud!
Here is a typical day in the life of Yours Truly. My memory when it comes to house chores is sometimes very questionable. My lovely wife gives me a single task before she rushes out for a brunch with friends. “Make sure you give the drug to Kiki (we have two cats, Kiki and Pompeii)”. “Of course”, I mutter with furrowed eyebrows, miffed that she had to remind me of a simple task. In two and a half hours, with drug in hand, I realise I had not fully paid attention the past two days. I am not sure which cat is sick (wifey had told me repeatedly that she felt Pompeii was a bit sickly, or was it Kiki???). In the end I do what most men would do in that situation (though some are too perfect to admit this). I made a call; not a phone call to my wife to humbly get re-instructions; it was a call to trust my “near flawless” memory. I “recalled” that she said, “Give the medicine to Pompeii”. And I acted accordingly.
Wifey returns three hours after, and when she enquired about the cats I remarked, “Yeah, Pompeii responded well to the drugs. See how he is prancing around the place”.
“Darling, the drug was for Kiki. Kiki is the sick one”, was the response I got from a horrified wife. Yep, Yours Truly had drugged the wrong cat. So we had one drugged cat that was hitherto perfectly ok, and a sick cat that still needed medication. All you can say at that point is, “Yep, I got that one wrong”, while the wifey is probably muttering, “You had only one thing; just one task to do!!”.
Certainly not helping the mood was the IKEA stool that stood awkwardly in the middle of the room reminding us of my failed attempt to screw the various bits together correctly. I am not the best at DIY. And did I mention that I cannot swim despite attending dozens of swimming classes, and it has been so long since I rode a bicycle that I think I might need a day or two to learn how to ride again.
Well we still have the rest of the day to look forward to. It’s 5pm and we have a friend’s dinner to get to. It’s a 20-minute drive to the Japanese restaurant. Yep, the same Japanese restaurant that I dread because their cutlery drawer is only stocked with chopsticks. I dislike those things, or maybe I’m just useless at using them. Well we are almost there. Yours Truly needs to finding parking on the busy streets of Central London. And yes the one spot available requires parallel parking, which by the way, the average Londoner does perfectly. There is something about parallel parking that I detest, or maybe it is one more thing I am useless at. As my wife tries to disguise her unease at the precious minutes I had wasted, I managed to park the car after six attempts.
To round off a brilliant day of uselessness, I am struggling with the walking directions from where we parked to the restaurant. Yes I made us turn left instead of right. The place I kept pointing out to my wife was the restaurant ahead, turned out to be a kebab shop.
On the drive home I did reflect back on the day I had endured. The truth is I chuckled to myself and laughed at my failings. I wasn’t mad at myself; far from it. If there’s anything I have learnt is that trying to be good at everything is a waste of time; and frankly a waste of life. Back in the day when I suffered badly from a mild form of OCD I wanted to be perfect at everything I had to do; I wanted to be top of the class in every subject; I wanted to be good at it all. But my motto today is to “still strive to win, but find the humour in failing”. Winning is fulfilling, but failing helps us not to take ourselves too seriously. If you haven’t laughed at yourself before, do it, I urge you. It is one of life’s best therapies. In fact laughing at yourself is probably the highest form of self confidence.
The world tries to condition us to be good at everything we do. The problem with this is that it spreads us too thin. It takes your eyes and energy away from the things you are good at. I once heard the late Dr. Myles Munroe say, “the richest place in the world is not the oil fields of Iraq, nor is it the gold mines of South America or the diamond mines of South Africa. The richest place in the world is just down the street. It is the cemetery. For there lies companies that were never started, great books that were never written, songs that were never sang, inventions that were never made, and masterpieces that were never painted”. The cemetery holds millions of square miles of untapped potential. This is sad but true. Many have been trapped by the fear of ridicule. Many have chosen to conform to society’s acceptance rather than give life to their innermost dreams. Many waste too much time to be perfect at everything. Find what you are good at, and be good at it. That is your priority.
Your life has a special purpose that fills a void in the universe. Each one of us is born with a seed of purpose. The uniqueness of every single being lends credence to the uniqueness of our purpose. Our universe thrives on a variety of gifts. In line with the completeness of the universe our unique purposes all come together to give the world its momentum. Together our individual seeds of purpose meet needs in one another’s lives in a truly remarkable way. In a sense each of us is a tiny thread that makes up the web of the human endeavour. Some threads may be more visible than others, but each thread in the web plays a role in keeping the web balanced and complete.
Find that purpose and give yourself to it. It is the one thing that you should strive to be your best at. It is a fair statement to say that the times when we are happiest are the times when we do something we love that meets a need in someone else’s life. This is a pointer to your purpose. There is a natural void in each of us, which is only filled when we meet the needs of others. This shows how much our completeness is tied together. When our purpose comes alive, the world comes alive and our happiness lights up.
And that is your licence. It is okay to be useless if you have the licence. Find your purpose and be good at it (and you surely will be great at it because it is the thing that brings you to life; the one thing others struggle at but you do with ease). Focusing on your purpose is your licence to be useless at many things. There is no shame in being average, useless even, at many things. The truth is the only thing you owe the world is to be the best in the gift that the universe has bestowed on you. Nobody blamed Einstein for not knowing how to make a good omelette; nobody throws eggs at George Clooney for not being great at singing. Nobody mocks Bill Gates for being less than average at sports.
If you can be great at many things, that is good for you. And of course try to be good at the things that help those around you but never yield to the temptation to be great at everything. Learn how to do DIY better; learn how to swim properly; to ride a bicycle; to parallel park; to cook a nice meal; and to use chopsticks; but you will be forgiven if you are below average at some of these. The one thing you cannot afford to be average at is your life’s purpose; the one gift that you have been bestowed the talent to succeed; your gift to the world; your part in the universal bargain that nobody can take away from you; the part of you that makes you unique and confident.
“Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go out and do that. Because what the world needs are people who have come alive”. – Harold Thurman