"What?!" was the incredulous and curt reply I received after telling my dear friend, "We can't all be good at everything." She and I were taking a cooking class together, and during one of the breaks were discussing cooking meals at home for our families. At one point, my friend apologetically described her experience as, "I'm trying." That's when I offered, "We can't all be good at everything." Her response of "What?!" made it clear she was offended, and that she felt I was wrong.
My friend is a woman who is a high achiever. She is a person who has the uncanny ability to set a goal for herself, make a plan, execute the plan, and successfully achieve it. She does not generally let anything stand in her way. Which is why she likely thinks I am wrong when I say "We can't all be good at everything."
This topic came up again with another friend who was disappointed that her son had not placed near the top of his class on a recent assessment, something that was not typical. Her son is a high achiever in many regards - academically, athletically, musically, personally, everything he tries - he's a great kid. My friend was not being critical; she was simply surprised (and a bit disappointed). I also told her, "We can't all be good at everything." She found my statement to be good perspective, as she, and we all, as parents, encourage our children to be all they can be.
Where does the truth lie with respect to whether or not we can all be good at everything? As is typical of most questions, I believe it lies somewhere in the middle. While my friend and I who find the idea that we cannot do everything well freeing, in that it allows us to be our best selves without feeling remorseful when we aren't expert at everything, that freedom may allow us to acquiesce to not push ourselves to our potential. And while my friend who seemed shocked that I would suggest she may not be good at everything she tries may achieve more goals because she is willing to do whatever it takes to do so, she may experience exhaustion rather than joy at the achievement, because her heart wasn't in it.
As is so often true in life, the answer probably lies in our hearts. If we wish to achieve something for the joy it brings, it is probably worth setting the goal and doing all that is necessary to achieve it. If achieving the goal won't bring true inner joy, it's likely not worth investing the time and effort to achieve it. "What?" is the question we should ask ourselves as we ponder this choice - if we feel dismayed at our wanting to undertake something, it probably has no meaning for us, and we should spend our time and energy elsewhere; on the other hand, if the answer to the "What?" is "Yes, I know it sounds crazy, but I know in my heart it's what I want to do," then go for it, with all you've got!
author of "JOY"