"Being good at things isn't the point of doing them."

Written by Cole Schafer


When Kurt Vonnegut was fifteen, he spent a month or so working on an archeological dig.

(A rather peculiar place for a young man that would one day grow up to become a tremendous writer of science fiction.)

He once told a story of how he was talking to one of the archeologists one day over lunch and the archeologist was bombarding him with all of the typical getting to know you questions…

“Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject?”

Vonnegut told the archeologist that while he didn’t play any sports he was in theater, choir, played violin and piano and used to take art classes.

The archeologist was impressed.

“Wow. That’s amazing!”

To which Kurt Vonnegut responded…

“Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And this is where the archeologist said something to Kurt Vonnegut that Vonnegut would later say changed the trajectory of his thinking…

“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.”

Here was how Vonnegut said the quote changed him…

*Kurt Vonnegut is typing now*

“…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.”

*Cole took his pen back*

This all got me thinking…

What if the people in this world stopped pursuing hobbies and crafts and jobs and careers and experiences to be good at them and instead pursued them because they liked them? Because they found them interesting? Because they made them curious?

While Kurt Vonnegut would go on to become one of the more widely read writers to ever exist, he continued to paint and draw for much of his life.

It seems that the archeologist’s words stuck.

But, I digress.

By Cole Schafer (but mostly Kurt Vonnegut)