Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

The Importance of Having Fun

In the previous post in this space, I talked about why it’s OK to just be good at something and why mastery shouldn’t be your overarching goal for everything. No, I haven’t had a change of heart or gotten feet of clay. I still believe what I wrote.

But there’s more to mastery, or just tackling something new and difficult, than jumping in and sweating. The key to mastery, or just continuing with something that you’re trying (even if mastery isn’t your aim), is to have fun.

Far too often, I’ve seen people get passionate about something — whether it was learning a new language, practicing a martial art, or picking up a new technical skill. But I’ve also seen the passion that many of those people had for what they were learning dim when they stopped enjoying it.

I can tell you from experience that if you’re not having fun, it’s not worth doing. Sit back, relax, and let Uncle Scotty share a story.

A Boy and Some Golf Clubs

When I was 10 or 11, my father was an avid golfer. Scratch that. He was a fanatic. He constantly played and practiced, then played and practiced some more. In some ways, golf consumed my father’s life outside of work during those years. Strangely enough, he never took part in one amateur tournament. He only played rounds of golf with his friends.

Around that time, my father decided that I needed to hit the links — whether I wanted to or not. I really didn’t want to do that. I found golf boring (and still do).

What I wanted, though, didn’t matter. So my father put me on a program of fairly intense practice: learning to correctly hold a club, to putt, to hit balls, all of that. The problem is that I wasn’t having any fun. Worse, I wasn’t allowed to have any fun. The moment I deviated from the script, I was pulled back into its confines.

The truth is that my father wasn’t much of a teacher. I had to endure his constant taunts and barbs and insults and general nitpicking. It made me dislike playing or watching golf intensely, a dislike that continues to this day.

Strangely enough, I made some solid progress after all of that practice. I wound up being able to consistently hit a ball well over 200 yards and had a decent short game. I was becoming a not-bad golfer.

But, as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, I wasn’t enjoying golf. Not just the practice, but heading to driving range on Sunday afternoons (where sometimes I was treated like a trained monkey) or the infrequent occasions we hit a public course to play nine or 18 holes.

One of the happiest days of my life was when my father was diagnosed with tennis elbow. I know … that sounds callous. It’s not meant that way. As fractured as our relationship has been, I’ve never wished any ill or harm towards my father. But because of that diagnosis, my father had to give up golf. Which meant that I didn’t have to pick up a damned golf club ever again. And I haven’t in 34-odd years.

Mastery is Fine …

But you really need to have fun. Mastery should come a distant second to your enjoyment. Don’t worry about mastery. It may come. If it does, then great. If not, at least you’re enjoying what you’re doing. That makes all the struggles you face, all the obstacles you face, all the frustration that you face tolerable.

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