When was the last time you tried something new—or picked up an activity you used to enjoy—without the hope of making money, becoming more productive, or ticking it off your to-do list? Something unremarkable that you may or may not be good at, but you simply do because it brings you joy?
Karen Rinaldi, publisher and founder of Harper Wave and author of the book “(It’s Great to) Suck at Something,” knows this joy firsthand. What inspired her to write the book wasn’t her success as a high-powered publishing executive, but rather her two decades as a devoted yet really bad surfer.
Many of us spend a lot of energy striving for success and recognition, while hiding our weaknesses, Rinaldi says. “When we approach something new, our first response is to try and dominate it. If we can’t, we ignore it,” so that we don’t feel inadequate or foolish. But by not spending time in that space of vulnerability, we diminish our lives, because that’s where opportunities for personal growth exist.
By not being a great surfer but sticking with it anyway, Rinaldi says she has learned patience and resilience while gaining confidence and power. “I’ve put so much of myself into the waves over the years,” she says, “but no matter how much I give, I always get more back.”
Here are three benefits to embracing your shortcomings:
1. You’ll learn to sideline the fear of failure
Rinaldi wants to inspire people to move past their fear, get out of their comfort zone, and do something they’ve always wanted to do. To start, she suggests giving yourself permission to fail. Once you say, “Okay, I don’t have to be great at this,” you get over that fear of failure. “Happiness is found in accepting, even dwelling in, what we fail to excel at,” she says.
When we follow our passions—regardless of our performance—we bend in ways that are beneficial emotionally and physically. We also learn to celebrate our failed efforts and become more comfortable living with our imperfect selves.
2. You’ll become more confident and understanding
By letting go of expectations in one area of our life, we learn to stop beating ourselves up when we fall short of a goal in other areas.
“I think I’m good at my job, but sometimes I screw up,” says Rinaldi. In the past, when she messed up, she’d freak out. Once you learn to forgive yourself for the things you’re not good at, “you end up not hating yourself when you make a mistake in something you are good at.”
You begin to silence the critic in your head and the self-doubt—and that’s powerful. It builds confidence. You become okay with not being a perfect being. We also develop more empathy and respect for the efforts of others.
3. You’ll discover tenacity and hope
Most of us have felt the discomfort of trying unsuccessfully to do something that enthralls us. But by persisting in her efforts, Rinaldi has found that “the other side of discouragement and frustration is tenacity and hope, which is found by living in the doing. The process itself is where we should find satisfaction,” she says.
By learning to enjoy the process, and not the outcome, we also are practicing mindfulness, or living in the moment. “Success is a reward we should not come to expect,” she says, “and not caring about it is revelatory.”