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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Don't Say You Are Bad At Something If It Is Something That, Typically, Almost Everyone Else Is Bad At

Ok, I think the title of the post says it all. This morning I have been reformatting an article for a British journal. I find I am very bad at this unfamiliar system of references, neither MLA or Chicago. But almost anyone would be fairly inept with such an unfamiliar system. Many academics are inept anyway, even in a system that they should know. Almost everyone is a bad proofreader, bad with deadlines, etc...

Singling yourself out as bad at something is a kind of reverse vanity, or a handy way of making excuses. The person saying this is assuming that everyone else has an easy time with these tasks, which is far from the truth. Instead, I suggest you take responsibility to not be bad at doing whatever it is. Just take more time to do it right, or develop a system to work around your weaknesses.

6 comments:

Clarissa said...

This means that I should stop saying that I'm bad at being organized. Or are people typically not bad at getting organized?

Jonathan said...

Right. Instead, say something like: "Like 90% of other people, I need to work very hard to keep myself organized." If you're in the bottom 90% in organization, or in anything else, welcome to the club. Maybe you're in the top 10% of being able to work in noisy environments, but the rest of us who need some degree of quiet cannot make ourselves into special cases.

Andrew Shields said...

This is something along these lines:

http://andrewjshields.blogspot.com/2006/07/morality-tale.html

[The interesting stuff is in the first two comments, by my mother and then by me.]

So you're saying something along the lines of "if it's worth doing, and you're doing it poorly, don't make a big deal out of it."

Clarissa said...

Now that I have learned to write on a schedule in a consistent way, I think I might be ready to tackle flossing. :-)

Jonathan said...

I meant more along the lines of: "Don't make the argument that you have a special handicap because it is so much more difficult for you (than other people0 to be organized, or because you have bad handwriting, or because you have a 'bad memory.' These are more or less the problems that everyone has." Your anecdote suggests another, equally valuable lesson: some basic things don't require much special skill, just the formation of a basic habit.

Andrew Shields said...

No special pleading, as it were!