Is Making a “C” in Life Good Enough?

Is Making a “C” in Life Good Enough? January 19, 2016


photo by Rodrigo Denubila

Do you consider yourself to be a master of anything?

You don’t have to be a concert pianist or famous artist. You might be a master of gardening, cutting hair, stocking grocery shelves, cooking a quick supper, even driving.

Malcolm Gladwell, in his book Outliers, said it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become a master at something.

If you look at Olympic athletes, say, or great dancers or musicians, they’ve probably spent 10,000 hours working on it.

What have you spent 10,000 hours doing?

According to my calculator, you would have to work 24/7 for more than a year to reach 10,000 hours. If you worked a solid eight hours a day, it would still take 3 ½ years to reach mastery. Many people spread it over decades.

I started ruminating about mastery because I have a new computer, and I’m fumbling to learn the updated software.

And I really hate feeling incompetent!

I prefer mastery – something I’ve done for so long that I can do it easily and well. Losing that sense of accomplishment makes me feel inadequate. (Yeah, I know it’s ego.)

But loss of mastery happens over and over in our lives.



When I left journalism to become a minister, I gave up a 20-year career that I was really good at and comfortable with – a feeling of mastery — to become a rookie in a new field.

Sometimes you change careers or retire, deliberately giving up your mastery.

Sometimes your particular master skills aren’t needed anymore. They are outsourced overseas or gobbled up by technology. We don’t have many master blacksmiths left.

When your mastery is no longer desired or needed, or you decide to stop doing it, there’s a sense of grief, a loss of identity.

Even if you’re headed into an exciting new challenge, you have to face your own incompetence. Be a rookie for a while.

I have a wise friend who suggests that people quit trying to be so good at everything. “Get a C,” she says. “Be good enough.”

A C?? Instead of an A?? The first time I heard her say it, I couldn’t breathe!

But the idea that I can, occasionally, make a C has given me permission to be less than perfect now and then. To declare a project done when I know I could do a little more. To let things go when they’re fine but not brilliant.

And “get a C” has kept me ruminating about the dangers of mastery. It’s easy to define our worth by our accomplishments.



When I speak, of course, I tell people they are worthy just because they were born, that just being is enough. (Easy to believe for others, isn’t it? How about for yourself?)

At the same time, we all came with gifts to be put to use specifically for our life purposes. Are you comfortable claiming your gifts?

I spoke with a woman the other day who frequently talks about her gifts and talents, and I confess I was a bit shocked. She wasn’t bragging, and she was also quick to note where she does not excel.

But her straightforward assessment of her gifts surprised me. And inspired me.

Gifts, after all, are something we’ve been given, something we had nothing to do with. Our only decision is whether to use them.

So what are your gifts? What are you a master at?

Take a few minutes today to claim your mastery. You don’t have to tell anyone, if it feels too boastful. Appreciate the many, many hours you have dedicated to becoming truly good at something, putting your gifts to use for the world.

Then, if you want to, consider becoming a master of something new. What would you devote 10,000 hours to now?

Remember, you only have to start with one.


Of course, I would love to hear your thoughts below.


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