DRMacIver's Notebook

Things you didn’t know you can be bad at

Things you didn’t know you can be bad at

Twitter thread by me:

I wonder how many things we’re all going around doing badly because the idea of not knowing how to do them well seems too ridiculous to admit to. Prompted by the fact that I’m reading about Buteyko breathing (with a certain amount of skepticism). On the one hand “You’re breathing badly” seems like a ridiculous claim. On the other… who ever taught you to breathe? Are you sure you haven’t self-taught bad habits? But also prompted by recent conversations about conversation. You’ve probably never been taught to have a conversation. I’ve had exactly one class on it and it was in the last six months. I know damn well that many people have not self-taught this well… In general there’s this entire class of implicit skills that we mostly don’t think of as skills, that we’re entirely self-taught on, and that we practice sufficiently non-demonstratively that we can’t easily watch what other people do. The result is a very personal skill idiolect

Idiolect is a very good word BTW. Not enough people know and use it.

To unpack on this slightly from conversation in that thread, there are two things going on here:

Other people have pushed back on the notion of “bad”. In some cases it’s just “could be better”. I do think in many cases bad is the right word though. For example if it’s really true that overbreathing can cause or aggravate asthma, I think that would count at being bad at breathing.

Another example is that apparently westerners are apparently bad at bending over.

Consider also the way this shows up in our use of language: Someone has bad posture rather than being bad at posture.

From ryan on Twitter

Things you do very frequently and are thus worth a counterintuitive amount of attention/optimization: * Sleep * Sit * Walk * Work * Commute * Read * Eat * Drink water * Type * Decide who to spend time with * Browse distractions


I think I actually do spend a counterintuitive amount of time and attention working on most of these. The only ones I don’t do much about in particular are “type” and “drink water”, but I feel like I’m already way on the good end of the bell curve of those (actually I probably drink too much water if anything. I have observed this pattern, and I think it ties in to other things too much to be worth addressing on its own).