I have not been able to find the original source for this quote from author Kurt Vonnegut, I’m afraid. But it speaks volumes to me as a eternal beginner at so many things.
When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.
And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”
And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”
And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.
2 thoughts on “Kurt Vonnegut on Enjoyment versus Achievement”
That’s an incomplete insight.
You dont have to be a chef to cook a great meal..and..you dont have to be Chopin to enjoy playing your piano..
Nevertheless…if you generalise his outlook you will achieve less than mediocrity..and..you will lose interest in all those things.. Because?…
If you dont make constant improvements?… you are like an engine on idle..revving and burning gas..but not even committed and dedicated enough to drive around the neighbourhood..and?.. when you see other people achieving things?.. you’re going to feel like a piddler..
You dont have to be great..that’s a given..not everyone has to be..but that’s not the point..
If you never make great efforts
You will never know failure..or success..and you will be lukewarm..and quite useless..
Usefulness is not a complete way to judge a person.
I’d just like to talk to someone who has idle stepbrother-like pursuits.