Get bad at something


Develop expertise. Become the best in your niche. We often hear that advice, and I’ve probably said it a few times.

Well, there’s also value in becoming BAD at something – particularly considering the incremental value per unit effort.

Example from chess:

If you have never played before and don’t know the rules, you are not even bad at chess. You are level 0. When people talk about the game, you have no intuition at all of what chess feels like.

Now let’s say you spend a full weekend with a patient tutor who teaches you the rules of chess, and you play a couple dozen games.

You are now bad at chess. Level 1. Any competent player will easily defeat you.

And yet you can now enjoy playing a game with someone at your level.

And you can imagine what it might be like to spend years studying openings and getting better.

Your universe has expanded.

A professional example: Tableau

If you’ve never programmed Tableau at all (level 0), it is difficult to manage a Tableau expert.

But with three or four days of self-study, you can get to level 1. Now you know what to ask an expert to do, even if you can’t do it yourself.

The value of going from level 0 to level 1 is  greater than going from level 4 to level 5. As Tyler Cowen has written, “average is over.”

One strategy for life, then, is to become truly world class in one or two areas, and to get bad at lots of things.