My stepfather was talking today about a friend of his who is a competitive arm-wrestler. That reminded me of something I'd tell people, back in high school: that I'd only won two arm-wrestling matches in my life, and both were against girls. The implication was that I was very weak.
I took a weird sense of pride in saying that, and I can't really imagine why. Maybe it was a sour-grapes variety of defense mechanism.
I've noticed that I still do this today with my sense of direction. The truth is that I don't have a very good sense of direction, but I find that I bring it up at times where it's not necessary. Why? I don't really know. It's like self-deprecating humor that isn't that funny.
Making these sorts of comments implies that it's cool to be bad at things. Kids in school pretend to be bad at math, because they think that's cool. I don't think it's cool to be bad at anything. It's okay to be bad at things, but it's perverse to take a sense of pride in that.
It's also harmful to do these things. Am I really likely to work out and become stronger if I'm bragging at how weak I am? My sense of direction isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, but I probably give up more quickly on trying to figure out the right way because I'm reinforcing this negative image of myself.
Be proud of the things you're good at, be aware of those you're bad at, but don't be proud of them. Accept them as a starting point, improve if you're willing to put in the effort, but don't make them part of your self identity. There's no benefit and it's not cool.
Photo is my favorite Okonomiyaki chef, who runs a place called Chitose in Osaka.
I love your writing Tynan and I have been reading your blog for more than a year now but I will have to say this post is really not on par with the quality standards which you have set. Just wanted to put it out there. But the essence of the post is very good, thank you.
I largely agree with this post, but it's a little shortsighted. I'm a waiter and frequently mess up, which makes me feel rubbish. It's enormously helpful to hear other people laugh off and publicly declare how much they mess up at the restaurant as well, without necessarily being proud of it. I think it's a more important tool for empathy that this post gives it credit for.
Tynan, you've achieved a lot and seem like a pretty impressive guy from your blog. Don't you think it's good for someone to hear that you're physically weak? It can be good to know peoples shortcomings
I think the issues Sebastian Marshall explores in his post The Million Dollar Question are a part of this tendency, particularly in some cultures where stand-out success isn't entirely rewarded. Success, or even a highly focussed effort to attain it, can be isolating, and highlighting personal flaws can be a way of breaking down that isolation.
Australia's rather egalitarian culture is a good example. Here, we love the idea of people becoming successful in principle, but in practice tend to cut people down if they become 'too' successful. Self-deprecating humour is common in Australia for this reason.
Certainly it can be a problem if you make flaws a part of your identity, or your public persona, but a bit of self-deprecation used wisely can be useful social tool.
I have also wondered about this. In Colombia, where I live, a lot of people seem to take pride in literally being bad people. They brag about how they squeeze money out of their boyfriends, cheat their employers, steal from friends, etc. as if that was something to be proud of. I think it has to do with a need for fitting in. If most people are "bad," then they ought to be the worst of the crop, seems to be the thinking. If someone stands out as "being too good," he is hated and ridiculed by the majority.
Some kids when they're younger have a family member that gets a kick out of them "being weak" in some regard or another. It's how a lot of people develop feelings of pride about being weak from an early age.
I'm lucky in that I didn't have this experience, but I can understand it. I actually have the opposite problem. I can get extremely anxious because I'm not amazingly good at EVERYTHING. The pro of this is that I'm pretty talented at a lot of things because I try to get good in order to fight the anxiety. The downside is that it's unhealthy and bad for creativity and self-image.
Meditation helps, but hey, what DOESN'T meditation help?
Nothing fancy today. There are a bunch of things I do that are fairly unique but probably wouldn't ever come up on this site. Maybe some of them will give you ideas, or maybe you'll just think I'm weird.
I'm thrilled that Tynan is coming to you with two things -- first, he's offering a breakthrough session through GiveGetWin. It's geared around doing more of the kind of excellent work you want to do, becoming more internally focused with your emotions, having a more enjoyable life, building great habits, and producing a lot of value in the process. There's five spots, so check it out now.
Second, we have this wonderful tour-de-force interview: it starts by covering how Tynan made the shift from unfocused to focused, how to derive internal enjoyment from things, useful actionable exercises you can do right now, Tynan's method and mindset for producing creative work consistently, how to set up great habits and an excellent mental and physical work environment, and how to make blogging work and similar endeavors work for you.
Total Focus; Total Enjoyment by Tynan, as told to Sebastian Marshall
When I turned 30 and I had a minor freak out… I thought, "I'll be 40 in not long, and then 50… there's things I want to do in my life, and they're not happening at this pace."
Before that, I had a general idea of things I wanted to do and have in my life, but I went about in an unstructured way. It was good in a lot of ways. It made be a broad process, but not much depth.