Embrace Sucking

Want to learn new stuff? There’s something you’ve gotta do..

I know, I know. The title could use some work.

But it is the phrase that came to mind when I first started thinking about this idea and I don’t have the heart to change it!

Don’t worry, this blog hasn’t yet taken a turn for the juvenile. What I am talking about is embracing sucking -AT- something.

I think this is a very good topic for my first actual post on this blog. Why? Because blogging isn’t something I know anything about. Frankly, I don’t know if I am a skilled writer, an average writer, or a complete schmuck. So why, then, am I doing this? Because it is something I have an interest in and the only way to ever become skilled at something is to start from the bottom.

The only way to learn is to embrace sucking at something.

Does that mean that everything you do will be naturally difficult and that you will be a failure when you start? No, not at all. If you’re one of the blessed few with many talents, there will be plenty of things that come easy to you. Perhaps you don’t have to embrace nearly the level of suck as the rest of us. But for those not so blessed, there is often period of absolute drudgery when starting something new.

I have found that this phenomenon is accentuated among men. The average guy has a lot of pride. It is often hard for him to admit that he simply isn’t skilled in a certain area. To add to it, trying new things is worrying because there is the possibility of finding yet another thing he isn’t so great at! I know that while growing up, I -hated- things that I wasn’t skilled at. I would pick something up, try it a little bit, and promptly quit once I noticed I was a little behind the others.

I was this way for a lot longer than I’d like to admit. Something changed in my 20s, though. I suddenly realized that I had this mountain of interests, but around the base of that mountain were walls that I had put up because I wasn’t confident in my abilities.

So what was the answer? Simply put, I committed myself to not caring about my performance when attempting something new. And just like that, I was cured! I went on to ignore every failure and became skilled at everything I did!

Or.. Not so much.

I started out with soccer. I had never played soccer before but the sport always appealed to me. I found a pick up group that played near by and I showed up… I was terrible. I couldn’t cover anyone, I was never open for the ball, and I only occasionally remembered who was on my team. I spent the entire first game in a state of abject confusion.

When I went home from that game, I was ready to quit. I had discovered I had no talent for soccer and the guys I was playing with were far better than I would ever be. But after a bit of self pity, I remembered the commitment I had made to myself. A week later, I was back on the field with the same guys.

Did I ever become skilled at soccer? Ehhh… What I can say is that I am now a hell of a lot better than I was. The result of my attempts is a comfort with casual soccer that I would never have had if I had let my pride lead me away from learning. Now if I get invited to play soccer with friends, I don’t have to conveniently have an “ankle injury” and have to skip.

Beyond preventing you from quitting a skill early on in it’s adoption, being content with sucking at something allows you to get out of your own head when trying new things. If you spend all of your time drifting around in your thoughts, mulling over how terrible you’re doing, you are not focused on the task at hand. You will miss out on opportunities to learn.

I have recently begun to do ballroom dance. This has been a huge learning experience for me because I have absolutely no music background. I once thought I knew something about music since I spent so much time jamming out to Creed on my way to football practice in High School. Turns out, listening to music and following music are two -very- different things.

I noticed with ballroom dance, there are often so many things going on that it is easy to get overwhelmed. Counting music, following the steps, leading your partner (for guys, for girls – trying to tell what the hell your partner is doing), adding “flair” with your arms during certain maneuvers.. It is complicated. My teachers are great and they do what they can to keep it simple, but that doesn’t mean it is easy to ignore the fact that it often feels like you’re just stomping around the dance floor.

Ballroom dance has been a great example of a time where I needed to simply accept the possibility that I look like an idiot. By not spending time considering how silly I might look, or whether or not I suck at what I’m doing, I’ve been able to better absorb what my teachers tell me. I don’t find myself growing quite as frustrated because I have resigned to be really, really shitty at this if I need to be.

Being comfortable with being terrible isn’t something you commit to and never think about again. It is a constant struggle between self deprecation and self actualization. Sometimes, failures will be very hard to take. But there’s strength in the struggle. Keep reminding yourself that it is alright to slip up.

That’s basically it. I don’t want to start the trend of writing immense blog posts that no one wants to trudge through, so I will close with this.. Seriously, get out of your own head. The fact is, it takes real strength to put oneself out there and try, especially when you’re not sure of the outcome.

Keep on improving.