It’s good to be bad

By Christian Gallen

March 18 2015

Last summer my mate was teaching me a new card game and I just kept beating him until he had a rage-quit and yelled “Why are you so good at everything?” I just yelled out “SNAP” and took his cards. The truth is I am not good at everything. I do have a few talents like drawing scorpions, hula-hooping, and don’t get me started on my double-jointed thumbs. There are however a lot of things that I am rubbish at. My friend just thought that I was good at everything because I am involved in lots of stuff. I play in a band, I love snowboarding and I can do back flips. And it seems that all he does is sit at home teaching people how to play snap.

Here’s what my friend didn’t understand, I haven’t always been good at things. In fact when I started playing bass in my band I stuffed up our first gig because I couldn’t play any of their songs. Why? Because I didn’t even know any of their songs. I only knew how to play that Six60 song “Don’t forget your roots” and it turns out I did forget my roots. I played everything wrong. It was one of the most awkward experiences of my life. Not just for me but for the whole band. I wanted to bail on the whole thing but I didn’t. Just because I had a bad experience didn’t mean I was going to quit just yet.

Michael Jordan put it like this “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed”.  I hear you MJ, I can relate. I fail all the time. You and I aren’t so different after all.  I really get failing. When I was 8 years old I entered the one-width backstroke race at primary school swimming sports. I had never raced this event before. I wanted to swim fast but I also didn’t want to smash my hands on the wall at the end of the pool. We all know that is why back stroke is the most dangerous of the strokes.


I was so scared of hitting the side of the pool that I started swimming way off course towards the deep end. Seeing me veer off course, one of the PE teachers was convinced that I was in trouble and I definitely needed to be rescued. I was just thinking that this one width feels a lot further than I expected. Next thing the PE teacher heroically jumped in the pool and pulled me out. I had no idea what was happening at this stage. I thought I was doing fine, and then suddenly some man is wrestling me in the water and pulling me out of the pool. I just looked at the guy like “Did I win”? But when I realized what happened I was so embarrassed. It is safe to say that race was an ‘epic fail’.

Some people are so terrified that if they tried anything new then something as shameful as my band fail or backstroke incident could happen to them. The saddest thing I see in high schools is talented young people who are so afraid to fail that they don’t even try. Sometimes we compare our first attempts with people who have been practicing something for ages. What I have come to understand is that when you are a noob, you are not going to be as good as a pro. And that is OK.

When I was at school there were people who just seemed to be incredible at absolutely everything. You know the ones I’m talking about. They are in the 1ST XV, 1ST XI and 1st clarinet in the jazz band. It’s not fair. Maybe they aren’t good at everything; maybe they just aren’t afraid to try anything.  I know so many of my friends who wanted to learn the guitar and just because they found it hard to begin with they gave up all together. I see too many kids who try to skateboard but can’t do an ollie on their first try so they go back to their scooter. I have missed so many opportunities in my life because I thought I wasn’t good enough to join that team, take that subject or apply for that job. I never regret sticking with my band after that first disaster of a gig. Since then we have recorded our music, been on tv and opened for some amazing bands. What I have finally learned is that if something is worth doing, it is actually worth doing badly while you get good at it.

So what have you always wanted to do but have been too afraid to try? For me it was playing bass. I gave it a go, I failed. I kept going, I got better. If you persist you will become one of those annoying people that is good at everything. So what are you waiting for? Go out there and suck at something!

Christian Gallen

Christian Gallen joined the Attitude team in July 2009 after completing a BA in Te Reo Maori. Christian’s performance and speaking ability has been honed through his involvement in various bands and speaking engagements.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *