We went bowling on a recent Friday night. It was one of those late night black-light bowling alleys with monitors above each lane playing current music videos, volume on 11. The neon green laces on my bowling shoes glowed in the semi-darkness, so pretty. It felt like a party in there, for real, though yes, I admit, old lady that I am, so loud.
I found what I thought would be a suitable bowling ball, though truly I don’t really know. And settled in. My first two times up were OK, but then, I think because I was thinking about it and trying to do better and copy what I was seeing successful bowlers around me do, I started to stink.
To truly suck.
To roll gutter ball after gutter ball.
It’s just a game, I kept telling myself. But that feeling, that feeling that I would like this so much better if only I was good at it, started to creep in, much as I tried to bat it away, tried to not care. I found myself literally cringing, turning around from the catastrophe of another shitty roll with my head down, shuffling away from the scene of the crime.
Ugh, I hate being bad at things. It just makes me feel so, I don’t know, bad.
Later, driving home, I repeated those words to my husband. Who, just by the way, bowls just fine. And he said, “Wait, why do you expect to be good at something you’ve only done maybe ten times in your whole life?”
The reason I’m bad at bowling is because I never do it. Yes, I’m sure there are people who are just naturally gifted at bowling. I am not one of them. Sure, I can observe and try to copy the moves of people rolling strikes around me. But if I only do that once every maybe 5-8 years, then, um yeah, of course there’s not going to be much in the way of lasting improvement.
It’s not fate. It’s just practice.
And why do I tell this story here? Why should you care? Well, maybe there’s something you beat yourself up about, something you don’t feel you’re great at but think you should be good at or at least better at -- like say, the numbers in your business, just for example, or giving speeches, or baking cupcakes. Maybe the truth is that OF COURSE you’re not good at it. Maybe like me and bowling, you’ve only done it, like, maybe 10 times in your whole life.
Truth: Ain’t nothing wrong with not being good at things that nobody ever showed you how to do and/or that you haven’t spent any time practicing.
There’s more: it’s not just practice. It’s priorities.
All that feeling bad gets in the way. In the case of my recent bowling experience, it started to eat away at the simple enjoyment of playing a game with friends and our kids and drinks on a Friday night. In other cases, though, with other stuff we think we should be good at but aren’t (yet), that feeling bad can have actual serious repercussions. It can make us avoid the unpleasant task, put it off indefinitely, rack up interest charges.
Priorities are what make the difference. If being good at bowling were a priority for me, then I’d make a point of finding someone to actually teach me how to do it and then I’d practice until I was actually better at it. Until I killed at it, or reached whatever my personal bowling potential is.
But since bowling’s not actually a priority, that hidden bowling prowess is going to remain a mystery to one and all. While I focus on the things that ARE priority and get all the practice I can to develop those skills to their highest degree.
Much as I don’t love being bad at things, still ultimately SO GOOD for me to put on that bowling discomfort along with those darling shoes and wear it around for a while. It reminded me to ask the question: is it a priority for me to do better at this? If yes, then I’ll find a teacher and work and dig and work until I’m better at it. If not, then roll out the bumpers, people. We’re going bowling.