What You’re Bad At Might Be Your Passion

Last night I went to a coffee shop after work to work more. I was trying to tweak the code of a website I had been asked to fix part of. I had to share a table with another girl and after talking for a few minutes, she said something I’ve heard before: “Oh, coding? I wish I could do that. I tried it a few times, but I suck at it.”

I’ve said the same thing before. There’s this myth that if you find your passion, you’ll naturally be good at it right away. If you discover you’re a writer, the most beautiful words will start to flow out of you. If you realize you’re a programmer, you’ll suddenly be writing perfect code as though it were the first language you ever learned. This is a dangerous myth because when we try something new and we’re inevitably bad at it, we end up thinking, wow, I’m so bad at this–it must not be meant for me.  And then we move on.

We quickly roll up the rug on a skill that could’ve become something we love doing.

How many of us have given up on something because we believe this myth? I know I’ve done it before. When something is hard or frustrating, I used to think that meant it wasn’t something I should pursue. As though if you weren’t immediately a Matrix-like ninja expert at something, that meant you never could be. I thought that passion could only mean something you do effortlessly until two in the morning. That state of just ‘being in the flow’ immediately.  As Cal Newport points out in Deep Work, a flow state can only be obtained after a deep period of focus. And when learning a new skill, you’ll almost always be spending some of the time frustrated and making mistakes.

Writing, coding and every other valuable or worthwhile skill can only be done well after you’ve spent some time being kind of bad at it. The next time you’re struggling with something and wondering why you suck at it, stick to it a little bit longer. It could be a passion that you’ll become great at.