A Little Happier: You Don’t Have to Be Good at Something to Be Good at Something

What do you think — do you agree that you don’t have to be “good at something” to be good at something?

Of course, it helps to be good at something — but it’s not absolutely necessary.  This was a giant revelation for me.

If you want to watch the movie Sing Street, which I mention, you can learn more about it here.

Want to read Better Than Before, my book about habit change? Learn more about it here.

The survey that Laura Mayer mentions is here. It really does help us if you take the survey, so if you do, you get a big gold star.

Want to get the “Moment of Happiness,” the free email newsletter I send out each day, with a terrific quote about happiness or human nature? Sign up here.

Want to get in touch? I love hearing from listeners:


Happier listening!

  • stefany

    This one is a little complicated, I’ll have to ponder on this one a bit before i think i’ll get your message. Oh and i’ll watch the movie too.

  • Donna

    I just took an art class where the artist teacher, who juries art shows, said he would select something a little messy and not well painted if the artist’s emotions came through and it touched him. So, you may not think you have the technique and polish down enough to be good at something in that way but your desire to say something may come through effectively. If the desire is strong it may touch the audience.

  • Maria

    It’s embarrassing how quickly I took that survey when a gold star was offered.

  • Leslie

    I’m kind of two minds about this. On the one hand, I’ve had dance teachers tell me all my life not to be so worried about the technique, and work more at just conveying the emotion. In this sense, I think this very much goes hand in hand with “don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” because it’s very easy to focus so much on being “perfect” (i.e. the technique) that we either never get started or the “good” becomes trapped behind a dull wall of technique that doesn’t let the passion through. Oula has helped me a lot with this, I think. On the other hand, when you mentioned writers who were very popular or successful, but not necessarily “good”, I cringed, because for me, if I’m reading something where there’s a lot of clunky sentences, incorrect word choices, or even just typos, it really distracts me to the point that I often can’t even tell if the story is good or not. The same if I’m listening to a musician who is often out of tune. So I guess I think in order to be good at something, you still have to achieve a certain level of technique to where lack of it isn’t distracting from your message, but you also have to not be so focused on perfection that you wall off the passion.

  • Janet Crum

    I fully agree. So much of what people think of as talent is really the result of hard work–and it’s much easier to work hard at something you love. Plus, some of my favorite books and music are made by people who work hard but aren’t “perfect,” not necessarily naturally gifted–or they weren’t when they started. But they wanted to do something, so they figured out how and practiced and kept striving to get better. Kevin Ashton’s book on creativity and innovation, How to Fly a Horse, debunks the idea that “talent” is some magical thing that you either have or you don’t. It’s a great read and fits well with the philosophy of doing what you love until you’re good at it.