Monday, April 29, 2013
I'm Bad, And That's Good
For those who haven't seen the Disney movie, Wreck-it-Ralph, the movie hinges on a video game villain who desires to be the hero. The above clip is taking from a scene that parodies the Alcoholics Anonymous use of the "Serenity Prayer" which asks for the serenity to accept the things one can't change, the power to change the things that one can, and the wisdom to know the difference. I was inspired to write a blog post a little while ago about not being able to "have it all." At the time I was struggling with the idea that there was no way I could be a good roller derby skater, and be a successful administrator all the while having a full time job, a relationship and some semblance of a life. I had come to the conclusion that I had to choose, and I was going to let being good at roller derby be the thing to get left behind. I was actively discouraged from writing this post, and I have since come to change my mind about the subject.
It's not possible to "have it all" because there's a lot that can be lumped in under "all" and you can't do everything well. You should pick a few things, and then do them really, really well - just like the Steamwhistle beer commercials say. I have, in recent weeks, learned that there are some activities that are part of roller derby that I am simply terrible at and should not try to do. I used to think that I could ref. No... no... I can't ref. I do not like it. I have no zeal for it and the results are bad for everyone - especially the players who are counting on penalties being called in a reasonable manner. I'm not good at math. I was a cashier for 6 years, and I can make change and from watching hours of Dragon's Den, I can tell you what a reasonable profit margin is but, overall, math is not my strong suit. I have also realized that I can't run practice. I used to think I could, and I probably did a fairly decent job. But after seeing how well our coach and another of our volunteers can run a practice, I have come to realize that this is not something I am good at! When it comes down to it, there are a lot of ways that I just suck.
And that's okay. The first step to being good is knowing that you're bad.
It doesn't help anyone when I try to do things that I'm not good at. If I ran practice all the time, I would be leading a bunch of tumbleweeds in drills because no one would want to come to my terrible, terrible practices. If I reffed, the game would dissolve into anarchy, and so on and so forth. The key to "having it all" is defining what that "all" is and making sure that everything lumped under that is something you can actually obtain. Don't set yourself up for disappointment by expecting to be able to be a really great pivot when you really prefer to jam and oh dear god why are you handing me that panty with the stripe?? Stick to your strengths, and improve upon them.
The pursuit of "having it all" may lead you down a dark path. You can't do everything. Think of it this way: everyone has a finite amount of skill, time and energy and you have to spread those things around your league the best that you can. If you try and do everything, you're not going to do anything well, and all the things you do will be done poorly. There's a reason the saying is "jack of all trades, master of none." It's the derby equivalent of trying to butter a pieces of bread when you only have one of those single-serving things of butter and a plastic fork. The result is a pretty scary looking piece of bread. Trying to do everything is a form of terribleness, and it's equally important to recognize the areas you excel in as it is to realize that you can't do everything and you shouldn't even try.
When you stop trying to do the things that you are bad at, you have more room for the things that you excel at, and free yourself up to improve upon the good things you're already doing. I am, actually, a pretty good derby player. I'm not going to be on Team Canada any time soon (or you know... ever.) and there's room for improvement but I do alright. All the paperwork gets done, and I can organize things really well, so I'm clearly good at administrative type things. And I still have my job and my boyfriend, so I must be doing alright there. After taking inventory of these things, and measuring them against my definition of "having it all," I have to admit that I do have it all. I've let go of the things I'm not great at, and that takes a lot of the pressure off.
An additional bonus to not doing things you are not successful at is that people who have those missing skills can step in. We now have a wonderful coach because training was an area that was lacking in our league, and we are all better for what he has brought to the table. When you are bad at something, it invites someone who is awesome in that area into your fold, which just makes things more awesome. The first step is recognizing the gaps in your ability, and accepting that those gaps exist. The real trick is having the wisdom to know if you just need to work a bit harder to take your skills to the next level, or if it's an area you will never be successful in. I'm going to attempt bench managing next month, and I feel that this might be something I have a real talent for. But I won't know until I try it. If I'm bad, then knowing that is good. Suspecting that you are bad at something, but continuing to do it makes you the villain of your league's story. However, if you are honest with yourself and recognize that someone else could fill a role better than you, thereby freeing yourself up for the things you are awesome at very well may make you a hero.