Summer Rerun: Why You Should Do Things Badly

July 20, 2015

Note: I'm taking a more relaxed approach to blogging this summer, so occasionally I'm going to rerun a previous post. I hope you enjoy this one, from 2013.

When I started writing this post, I had just gotten back from riding my bike for the first time in…years. My kind husband recently cleaned out the garage, brought my bike down from the ceiling where it had been suspended, pumped up my flat tire, lubed the chain and adjusted the seat so it’s just right. I finally wheeled it out onto the nature trail, and while I hadn’t exactly forgotten how to ride a bike, let’s just say that I didn’t look very graceful doing it. There was some irrational weaving and one or two interesting experiments with gears and braking, but soon I was pedaling happily down the trail. I wasn’t very skilled, but at least I didn’t hit a tree.


The Great Bike Ride was, I hope, the first of many rides, each one getting a little smoother. I admit that on this first ride, I felt kind of silly. I *should* be able to ride a bike, right? I learned long (long) ago. But right now, I do it kind of badly. And that’s OK. Doing things badly is important, and you should be doing things badly, too. Want to know why?

If you never try anything you’re not already good at, you’ll never learn anything new.

Maybe you’d like to learn to sketch, try salsa dancing, or bake the perfect pie. If you’ve never tried it before, it’s likely that you won’t be good. It’s the rare person who is good at something the very first time he/she tries it (and you have my permission to hate those people). If you never step outside your comfort zone and risk doing things badly, you’ll never know if you even like to samba or how creative your sketches can be. (And if your goal is the perfect pie, please call me—I’m willing to taste your experiments.)

Once you’ve tried something for the first time and you decide you like it, guess what: you might still do it badly for awhile. Many, many worthwhile and satisfying things take time to master. The point is, if you’re not willing to do something badly, at least for a little while, you’ll never know just how good you can be.

For me, horseback riding has been a prime example of doing things badly. I recently saw a video of my first ride on Tank, and frankly I was appalled (and I felt sorry for Tank). In the years I’ve had him, I’ve taken many riding lessons and spent hours practicing, and I know I’m a much better rider than I was then. Thankfully, I didn’t give up when I found that good riding is much harder than it appears.

When you try your new things (and I write this to myself as much as to you), be patient and don’t be embarrassed or self-conscious about doing things badly. Realize you’re learning and expanding your horizons. Be proud of your badness for badness, eventually, leads to goodness.

What would you like to do badly?

Still practicing... (Photo by Holly Bryan)

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2 comments

  1. As always, I love your guiding thoughts. I would like to practice hoisting my kayak up on top of my car so that I can enjoy being out on a lake. And in my own art practice, I do find resistance to trying new things because, yes, I get concerned with the badly part & have trouble with the patience part. Thank you, Kathy. Keep enjoying your summer!

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  2. Thanks, Rita. How cool that you like to kayak! I've never tried it. I suspect I would be "bad" at it to start with :). Hope you are having a wonderful summer.

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