These Are Not Your Friends
I have terrible handwriting. Just god awful. If you compare my handwriting to that of a dyslexic eight year old, you’re likely to come out with a new respect for dyslexic eight year olds.
It sounds like a terrible thing. A character flaw that negatively affects my life. But it really isn’t. Having bad handwriting is great! It has gotten me out of so many jams over the years.
When I did bad on spelling tests in school, it wasn’t a reflection of my intelligence. Sometimes the teacher read my answers wrong, because I had bad handwriting.
Sometimes in my old job at the sandwich shop, the guy that normally wrote the trivia on the blackboard was sick and someone else had to do it. It was time-consuming and annoying and everyone was busy. But I never had to, because it had to look good, and I had bad handwriting.
So you see? Bad handwriting isn’t my enemy. It’s one of my oldest and most reliable friends. There have been many obstacles in my life that would have challenged and frustrated me. But instead of having to deal with them, I had a note from my friend, bad handwriting. All I had to do was whip out the note, and then I didn’t even have to try!
Bad handwriting is a friend alright. The kind of friend who urges you not to work on your dissertation when you could go out to the bar, instead. The kind that asks why you are bothering to clean the kitchen when it’s only going to get dirty again.
Bad handwriting isn’t a friend. Bad handwriting is an enabler. But it’s tricky. It disguises itself as humility. As self-awareness. I think it is rational admission of my own weakness. And there’s just enough truth there to mask what it really is: an excuse.
We all have enabling excuses in our lives. Things that we tell ourselves we are bad at so we don’t have to try anything outside of our comfort zone. So we don’t have to take risks. For some people it’s math, or design, or public speaking. For a lot of aspiring writers it’s marketing. “Oh, I’m no good at connecting with strangers.” So you give up before you even start. We say we are bad at things and it lets us skirt those topics entirely.
It’s time to stop.
It’s true that everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Some things come naturally to you, and others you struggle with. But to say you are bad at something is to define it as a character trait. Something intrinsic about you that you can’t change. It doesn’t work like that. People who are good at things are good because they worked their asses off. Maybe they had some talent to get them going, but talent is only the beginning, not the end. People who are successful are those who recognize their strengths and do what they need to do in spite of their weakness.
So do yourself a favor. Make a list of everything you are bad at. Things you avoid because you think you can’t do them and can’t improve. Then find a new way to look at them. When they come up in your life don’t avoid the challenges they present. Think your way around your weaknesses, or learn to improve them so they aren’t so much of a hinderance.
One trick in accomplishing this is to replace the word but with the word and.
I need to get my finances in order, but I’m bad at math.
I need to get my finances in order, and I’m bad at math.
You recognize that you struggle with the numbers, so maybe you find a computer program to do that for you, or a friend to help you.
Changing that one word transforms an impassable barrier to one more challenge to overcome. You overcome challenges all the time. Maybe you can’t get over the wall because it’s too high. But maybe you can walk around it.
Eventually the guy who wrote the daily trivia quit and no one else was willing to take on the job. I had to do it, and I had bad handwriting. From that day forward I got to work in the morning, hopped on the computer, typed up the trivia, and printed it out. Like so many solutions it was both easy and obvious as soon as I thought about it. But as long as bad handwriting was in the room, whispering in my ear, I never had to think about it.
So what is your bad handwriting?