A couple of weeks ago I wrote about our culture’s obsession with being the best…being a winner at all costs.
My message was that you don’t need to be the best in order to be successful in your work as a freelancer.
This week I want to talk about the extraordinary pleasure that can be found in doing something really, really badly.
To explain what I mean by that, I need to take you back to 1965 when, as a shy and socially awkward 8-year old, I was sent off to an English boarding school.
And yes, private boarding schools in England back then were not so very far from the stereotypes that might be popping into your mind right now. In a word, it was quite tough.
Academic performance was a big part of our lives, and our abilities were tested on a frequent basis. You soon learned whether you were one of the brainy kids, or one of the “thick” kids.
Sport was compulsory, every day, unless you were in the “sickroom”. Being in the sickroom required a minimum temperate of 102. Anything less, and you were good to go and required on the rugby field in the pouring rain.
As you can tell, nobody was wrapping us up in cotton wool and asking us how we felt.
In sports we competed against other private schools…in soccer, rugby and cricket. Again, you soon learned whether you had the right stuff to be in the First Eleven in cricket, etc.
In my case, in addition to being less than stellar on the academic front, I was also totally useless at sports.
But, surprisingly, against this rather harsh and Victorian backdrop, the headmaster of our school came up with an idea for those of us who played cricket badly. He invented the Z-Eleven.
The Z-Eleven, as opposed to the First Eleven, comprised players who were remarkable only for their incompetence. And yes, the idea spread, and soon we were playing bad cricket against similarly terrible teams from other schools.
I’m not sure whether we were meant to win or lose those games with other schools. But none of us cared. We just loved being part of the team. No pressure, because we were chosen for our lack of skills. There was even a certain cachet associated with being a member of the Z-Eleven.
What does this have to do with succeeding as a freelancer? I have no idea. Possibly nothing. At least not directly.
But I do think it’s a good idea to take a break from the relentless pressure to be the best, or to be a winner.
The Z-Eleven taught me nothing releases pressure and relieves stress more thoroughly than enjoying something you do really badly.
Give it a try, and let me know just how totally useless and incompetent you are.
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About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach. Read more…