In which I am not actually that good at shearing - Tactical Ninja
Nov. 9th, 2012
09:14 am - In which I am not actually that good at shearing
Shearing season starts properly tomorrow. What this means is that I'm booked every weekend for the next month or so, and by the time I get to the end of that I'll be booked every weekend for the following month. Hopefully the weather will stay relatively settled because otherwise I'll get behind and end up shearing after work during the week. The aim is to have them all done by Christmas, but usually I have one or two catch-up clients afterwards.
It's a bit of an acid test for my shoulder too, shearing being a somewhat round-shouldered affair with added sheep weight, it could end up making it flare up. Not sure what I'll do if that happens. I cut the Horokiwi mob in half and will only be doing the Leicesters and a couple of giant blobs tomorrow (a total of 25), which should test it out without nailing me completely.
There's been a discussion going on in and around my friends about fear of mediocrity, and how fear of being mediocre despite one's best efforts can cause people to not commit fully to whatever they are pursuing. It's like a watered-down version of that thing the YoT is working so hard to get over - he fears failure so doesn't want to try. He's got good reason to feel this way, having lived a childhood where "Don't do that you'll hurt yourself" was a mantra, and getting things wrong or making mistakes was a catlyst for lots of yelling and maybe some violence.
He's worked pretty damn hard on himself these last few years, and had some wins. With each win, the willingness to try has increased a little. Now he's learning to drive. I'm really proud of him.
So I kind of get that if a person has a certain combination of personality traits and history, they might fear mediocrity enough to not fully commit. If you've had more successes than failures it'd be pretty easy to begin to set the 'failure' bar a lot higher - witness my disappointment at getting a B+ for an essay after a string of As. And if part of your motivation is an internal voice that's a bit like the YoT's Dad, telling you you can't do it, then being abusive towards you if you don't reach the standards you set for yourself, then yeah, I totally get the tendency to not fully commit so that you never have the YoT's Dad in your head telling you you're not good enough despite your best efforts.
News flash: the YoT's Dad is a fuckwit. So is my internal voice that berates me for getting a B+. Because everyone's mediocre at something, even despite their best efforts.
I am mediocre at horse riding, despite having put my all into it every day for my entire teenage years. Sure, I won lots of ribbons, but hey - I was in the same cohort as Blyth Tait, and you don't see me with any Olympic medals. The highest I went was Novice (which is higher than most people think given the name - at that level you're jumping 4 foot) before realising that I would always be mediocre at horse riding. It didn't stop me loving doing it, but I had to come to terms with the fact that I'm just not that good at it.
I'm also mediocre at shearing. Yes, my clients love me. They love me because I'm careful not to cut the sheep and I talk to the sheep and am kind to them, and I care about the quality of the wool and I'm a good conversationalist and mostly manage to stay cheerful when I have a hoof up my nose and a flailing demonbeast in my hand. But at shearing itself, I'm mediocre. On a very good day with the right conditions and good sheep I could shear maybe 200. In the conditions I usually work, I can manage 80-100. I have a video on YouTube of me shearing the last hogget of the day. It's called The World's Slowest Shearer, and there's a comment on it from a guy who is being encouraging, telling me to keep at it, it took him a whole year before he got as good as he is now.
I didn't have the heart to reply that actually, I've been shearing for 20 years and I'm just not that good a shearer. That would have been humiliating, right? But it's true. I'm mediocre at shearing - yet I get asked back again and again because I fulfil the needs of my clients, which don't include 'peel out my mob of 20 in half an hour'.
It rankles, to me, having spent so much time and effort learning to do things I really want to be good at, only to realise that I'm just not that good. My inner voice really wants to keep reminding me about these supposed failures, because it's a fuckwit and thinks the bar should be set at the same level for everything I do. But then I remember that string of As, and the difference I've made to the YoT's life, and how I made a staff that everyone thinks is awesome, and how several people whose work I admire want to collaborate with me on projects, and how most of my friends want to be in my group after the zombie apocalypse, and I go "Hmm."
Maybe I don't have to excel at everything. Maybe excelling at the things I am capable of excelling at is good enough. Maybe the bar for failure should be set at different levels based on my strengths and weaknesses*. Here I am at 42, the first person in my family to have a degree (almost!), and with a pretty damn good idea of what things I excel at and what I don't. So sure, set the bar as high as it'll go for analysis and argument, because I fucking rock at that stuff. But set it a bit lower for strength-and-coordination based physical skills, because evidence suggests that 'pretty good at that' is the pinnacle I can expect to reach with it**.
So where am I going with all this? Mostly I'm just musing, but I have also realised that if I am to take an evidence based approach when assessing my chances of excelling at something new, having a look at what I've historically excelled at might help me decide whether my inner voice is just being a fuckwit when I dither about commitment through fear of failure to be brilliant. Say I got a job in drug policy - it's on the cards one day right? I've never done drug policy and I'd be a total noob at it and flounder a fair bit I imagine. But I'm good at being a student, at learning new techniques, and I rock at research, analysis and argument. I'm not afraid of learning new things or admitting I don't know, and I'm good at finding the information I need. In other words, while I'm not a brilliant drug policy analyst yet, I have all the ingredients I need to be one, and everything on that list is something I rock at.
So if I'm going to commit myself fully to something in the hopes of becoming brilliant at it, that sounds like a good option to choose, right? And my inner voice can shut the fuck up and go back to berating me about every time I cut a sheep by accident, mmk? Because I'm ok with being a mediocre shearer, but I'm not ok with cutting sheep so at least in that role, it's being useful.
* Yes, part of me thinks I shouldn't have any weaknesses, but the part of my life where weakness = eaten by the metaphorical lions was a long time ago, and I beat those fucking lions, remember?
** I am aware that shearing a sheep is something most people think is a fantastic super-achievement. I'm also aware that being able to do it as well as I do is impressive in the grand scheme of things. But I'm pretty good, not fantastic at it. It's a fact.
Huh. That was long. Have some pictures. Here's a picture of the thing on the wall in my new quarters at the Mages' College in Skyrim:
Totally looks like:
Also, in 'picture paints a thousand words' news, here's the phone book pile in our building after 2 weeks:
Yep, only one has been taken. Says something, really.
OK scratch that, apparently I'm now doing three lots of sheep tomorrow and the tally just went to 35. Such is the nature of shearing season. *sigh*
But check it out, my mediocrity is totally in demand! ;-)