Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should

October 28, 2019 General Life

I used to think I wasn’t smart. 

Smart was for the people at the top of the class, the valedictorians, the ones good at math and science. Never was I any of those things, and if I was, it wasn’t for very long.

A few years ago, I realized something important: there are several different kinds of smart.

This might seem obvious, but with our country’s school systems structured as they are, it’s often only set up for a certain kind of smart to really own that label. Mostly the kind of smart that I mentioned above.

I’m actually very smart, just in a particular way with a particular set of skills. Don’t give me the map if we’re on a hike, I will get us lost. And don’t ask me to do anything with numbers without a calculator unless it’s to figure out the tip at a restaurant. Years of waitressing at least got me that far in math.

It’s super useful to know what your superpowers are; what you’re best at. 

Again, this may seem obvious, but I didn’t realize how often I’d been doing things that I just wasn’t good at, and then making myself wrong for being bad at them.

With the DIY world and Youtube being what it is, I often think I can just figure out stuff that way, through the internet. And sometimes I can, because figuring things out is actually one of my super powers. But there are some things I just can’t (and shouldn’t) try to figure out.

Earlier this year I was sitting on the living room floor of my cousin’s house. He’s painting his front door, we’re talking, and he and tosses me an instruction manual. He tells me he’s installing a heated floor the next day and needs to know how low to place the wiring under the floor boards. And asks me to look in the manual and find out.

I open the manual. And in two seconds I am drowning trying to read this thing like it’s Mandarin Chinese. It takes me several minutes but after combing through I finally find a paragraph that I think might answer his question, though I’m doubtful because, well, Chinese.

I read the paragraph out loud. 

“Ok, I’m good, thanks,” he says.

I sit there, half relieved, half dumbfounded, because I’m while I’m happy that I answered his question, I simultaneously have no idea what I just said.

And I think to myself that I’m amazed at how smart he is. In a totally and completely different way than I am. He works on commercial and residential buildings in a wide range of capacities (actually I have several family members that do versions of this, they’re all awesome at it) and it blows my mind because I would be terrible doing anything like that. To my credit, I did spend one summer with him and his dad and some friends roofing in college and I managed to make it through that, but they were kind and gave me all the easy jobs. I’m just proud that I didn’t fall off the roof.

The point is though, that everyone is smart. Literally, everyone. It’s just about understanding what you’re good at, and playing to your strengths. And equally invaluable is understanding what you’re not good at, and delegating that to other people, whether you’re asking for help from a friend or hiring it out. 

The invisible cost of time, effort, and energy you’re going to waste trying to do things you’re not good at is going to come nowhere close to matching the money you might be saving by trying to do something yourself. Especially if you hate the thing you’re doing. 

I am terrible at baking. And I hate it. So when it comes to a family function, I always either delegate that job to my sister (one of her superpowers), or I hire a company called Nestlè and their refrigerated cookie dough to do the job for me, so my family has a better experience of desert than rock hard chocolate chip cookies, and I don’t end up frustrated and drowning in cookie dough made from scratch.

Moral of the story: get super clear at what you’re the best at, what kind of smart you are, and also what you’re terrible at. It’s super useful to not only yourself, but to help you show up the best you can for everyone around you. 

And then, especially when you get clear on what you’re not good at, find creative solutions to outsource those tasks. Do this in every area of life you can think of. Your life will be immeasurably improved by it.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.

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