The Opposite of Expertise


My weekends are a bit hectic.

Because Alan and I have a stand at two farmer’s markets on Saturdays and own one van, we rent one on Friday afternoon for me to drive on Saturday. Then when the work day is done, I return the van and walk home. It’s a good way to work out the kinks that come from standing on a concrete floor for five hours.

Of course, we do have the occasional rainy Saturday and then I call a cab.

This past Saturday, I was riding home in the pouring rain, chatting about the weather with the cab driver, trying to find the upside. “Well,” he said, with a great big smile, “it’ll soften up the golf course.”

Now, I have never golfed in my life. No, that’s going in my obit. I am an adamant non-golfer. But then he started to explain his approach to the game.

He and a friend go out a couple times a week. They don’t keep score. Because neither of them can count that high. They, shall we say, make full use of the golf course. And laugh the entire time they’re out there.

They are thinking of changing the rules, just a bit. “Next time,” he told me, “we’re gonna keep track of how many balls we lose. The person who loses the most balls wins!”

If ever I change my no golf stance, I want to play with him.

We celebrate expertise in all its many forms. We try really, really hard to get good at things. And most of the time, that’s a good idea. Driving, writing, sex.

Alan keeps on perfecting his bread baking skills and will always be learning more. Excellent, lovely, wonderful.

But I think a truly joyful life demands that we happily suck at something. Sports, singing, magic tricks. Just get out there and dazzle the world with your incompetence. Make full use of the golf course. Be known for the daringness of your footwear. Enjoy that karaoke. Post those weird selfie experiments….

It’s so easy, as we struggle with careers and family life and financial security, to forget that those are not life in its entirety. We evolved with the ability to laugh, but so much of the time, it seems a vestigial ability. We take ourselves so seriously. We take everything about ourselves seriously. And I don’t think that’s healthy.

I once, in the middle of a very serious patch in my life (that patch during which we lost three parents in three years, sold our business to go and live with my Mum and then moved away from there and started another, ultimately unsuccessful business, seriously hampering our finances in the process), while sitting in a service station on the highway on yet another 3 hour trip home, had the amazing thought, ‘How would the world be different if we all believed that life is supposed to be fun?’

I looked around at the business travellers hunched over the cellphones and bad food. I looked out at the boring, dangerous highway, built to get serious people from one place to another as quickly as possible. I thought about the waste and misery that go along with constant striving to improve and realized that I was thinking a truly heretical thought.

But, what if life is supposed to be fun? Never mind changing the whole world. How would your life look? Would you make full use of the golf course?

And I do realize that it’s a bit odd for me to start this post with a description of my work-related hectic weekends, but actually, I do, mostly, find those fun. Certainly way more fun than I ever had working in offices. And the conversations that Alan and I try to have at the end of one of those busy weekends can be really funny.

I think it’s about finding the right mix of seriousness and fun, of taking care of the things that truly need taking care of, but not a thing more. I think most of us would feel better if we could bring a whole lot more fun into our lives.

We’ve demonstrated our expertise. Maybe it’s time to embrace our incompetencies.


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5 Responses to The Opposite of Expertise

  1. Ann says:



  2. Mary Ann Rosenbloom says:

    Ah yes…to be seriously silly!

  3. Beverley McCormack says:

    Excellent, Barb! I have heard the spiritual idea that joy is the purpose of our lives and think that’s a good approach. Life would be better if we didn’t take it so seriously. And I, for one, have lots of incompetences to celebrate (one being playing golf).

  4. Michaela Murphy says:

    Oh I how I love your unique view of the world – ALWAYS gets me thinking. I definitely tend to err on the deep side of life (which is just what makes me tick) but this can be at the expense of letting my hair down and having fun sometimes. Good reminder Barb – thank you 🙂

  5. Heather Herman says:

    Thank you for The reminder! Of course it’s supposed to be fun – what’s the point otherwise?!!!

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