Be a Fitness Muppet!

Here’s Brett Goldstein (of Ted Lasso fame) speaking as a guest on Brené Brown‘s podcast, Unlocking Us about the Muppets.

“Well, it’s like… The secret of the Muppets is they’re not very good at what they do. Like Kermit’s not a great host, Fozzie is not a good comedian, Miss Piggy is not a great… None of them are actually good at it, but they fucking love it…

And they’re like a family and they like putting on a show and they have joy and because of the joy, it doesn’t matter that they’re not good at it.

And that’s like what we should all be. Muppets.”

I agree. What I love about the Muppets is how much fun and joy they have even though–as noted above–they’re not the most talented at what they do.

I blogged recently about being willing to be bad at a thing and the role that willingness plays in motivation.

For me, it feels like it’s sport dependent. There are sports I’m good at and they’re easy to like. Bike riding! Weight lifting! I’m a strong, powerful person with a fair bit of endurance. And I take joy in those activities in part because of my achievements.

But that doesn’t work when I’m bad at a thing. Now it’s one thing to be bad at thing and not like it. Then you can just move on and find something else to do. But what about things you’re bad at and like anyway?

I never was a very good soccer player but I loved it. I liked the team aspect, the social aspects of playing, being outside. There was lots to take pleasure in besides getting good at soccer. I was a soccer Muppet.

I’m also not very talented at Aikido. Sometimes that was fun and sometimes it wasn’t. Most of the not fun bits revolved around testing. I worked hard but the individual testing made me want to get better and when I couldn’t, at least not at the speed of those around me, I really struggled to enjoy it when I knew I wouldn’t be ready for the test everyone was training for. It felt hard to be part of the community and opt out of the testing culture.

Swimming? Not ever getting faster bums me out.

But why do I care about getting faster? Why do I care about advancing to the next belt level?

Swimming and Aikido are both good for me even though I’m not good at them. I should bring some of that Muppet energy to the pool and the mat. Weirdly as I get older, it gets easier. People drop their expectations. People are just impressed you’re doing a thing at all. That’s ageist and frustrating in a different way but it takes the pressure off.

Do you struggle with not being good at things, even if they bring you pleasure? Or are you a happy, cheerful amateur, a fitness Muppet, as it were?

There’s a quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut though no one can agree whether or not he actually said it, where it came from, or who else might have said it, if it wasn’t Vonnegut.

It’s in a spirit aligned with my calling for more Muppets in the fitness world. It’s a great quote. Bonus points if you know who it’s actually from.

“When I was 15, I spent a month working on an archeological dig. I was talking to one of the archeologists one day during our lunch break and he asked those kinds of “getting to know you” questions you ask young people: Do you play sports? What’s your favorite subject? And I told him, no I don’t play any sports. I do theater, I’m in choir, I play the violin and piano, I used to take art classes.

And he went WOW. That’s amazing! And I said, “Oh no, but I’m not any good at ANY of them.”

And he said something then that I will never forget and which absolutely blew my mind because no one had ever said anything like it to me before: “I don’t think being good at things is the point of doing them. I think you’ve got all these wonderful experiences with different skills, and that all teaches you things and makes you an interesting person, no matter how well you do them.”

And that honestly changed my life. Because I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them. I had been raised in such an achievement-oriented environment, so inundated with the myth of Talent, that I thought it was only worth doing things if you could “Win” at them.”

6 thoughts on “Be a Fitness Muppet!

  1. I’ve been struggling with learning to play the piano at age 67. I’d almost given up because, to quote myself, “I’m no good at it.” This blog was an eye opener for me.

    “… I went from a failure, someone who hadn’t been talented enough at anything to excel, to someone who did things because I enjoyed them.”
    That’s it exactly – I’m a piano Muppet!

    Thanks for this inspirational post, Sam B.

  2. Miss Piggy in a gi made my day!

    This post really resonated with me. A couple of weeks ago I ran a 10K race at very slow pace! I have to keep reminding myself that the only person who cares is me. Even my very patient running partner was ok staying at my pace even though I told her she could run ahead.

    I dropped out of Aikido not because I didn’t love it but rather because of the politics of the dojo. I love Karate, but even though I am somehow a 2nd Dan I am not very good at it! Especially after some Covid-imposed shutdowns and my lack of focus on Zoom Karate. But it is very good for me mental, physical, and social health. Karate makes me happy, and that’s what important.

  3. Perhaps Capitalism indoctrinates us early that we must be competitive and excel? Perhaps to be a Muppet at something that brings you joy is the ultimate act of consumerist rebellion?

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