Get weekly newsletter updates from Gretchen.

A Little Happier: Another Lesson from Dolly Parton: You Don’t Necessarily Have to Be Good at Something.


I know I said I’d come to the end of my fascination with Dolly Parton, but there’s one last observation I want to make, inspired by her life.

It’s yet another splashy example of an idea that I’ve talked about before, a Secret of Adulthood that has been very important for me to learn, and something that I often tell my children.

You don’t have to be good at something to be good at something.

This is crucial realization for me, because growing up, I always thought, if I’m interested in following a career in such-and-such, I have to be a master in all the related tasks. And if I can’t be good at every part of it, I can’t pursue it.

With time and experience, however, I’ve learned that that just isn’t true. Many people are wildly successful in fields where they lack what people might assume are essential skills.

And that’s where Dolly Parton comes in. In my study of Dolly Parton, I learned that Dolly Parton doesn’t read music.

And then I did a bit of research, and I learned that Paul McCartney can’t read music! Michael Jackson, Elvis Presley, Jimi Hendrix!

These musicians didn’t have a thorough education in music, they lacked arguably crucial skills—but that didn’t stop them. They loved music, they wanted to play, create, and perform, and they figured out how to do that.

Of course, with whatever we’re trying to do, we want to be as good as we can possibly be. We must train, learn, practice, perfect.

With everything I do, I’m always trying to do better. But I also remind myself that I don’t necessarily have to be good at something to be good at something.

If you want to hear the other episode of “A Little Happier” where I talk about this, listen here.

Quote From the Podcast

You don’t have to be good at something to be good at something.
Gretchen Rubin

Thanks to Our Sponsors

More Episodes For You

icon onward

One Last Thing

Want a new podcast to listen to?

With the same vibe as “Happier,” The Onward Project is the family of podcasts that I’ve launched, for podcasts that are about “your life, made better.”

Learn More

Get My Weekly Newsletter

Sign up to get my free weekly newsletter. It highlights the best material from here, my Facebook Page, and new original work.