Are You Willing To Suck?

I Turned 51 Today

Today I begin my 52 year around the sun. That's just another way of saying I'm getting older and today was my birthday. I spent the day in Disney's California Adventure with my wife and two kids. Then at night, I had a casual dinner with one of my best friends who runs a digital agency here in Southern California, Steve Zehngut.

As I enjoyed my day, I did a lot of people watching. I observed tons of young employees working at the park. Some were fantastic at their job. Others were clearly just getting started and hadn't yet mastered their craft. But everyone was working to create the happiest place on Earth.

It got me thinking about my own roles and jobs in life and what has helped me be successful. And that led me to a tweet that is the core of today's post (which is number 331 this year).

You Have To Be Willing To Suck

I have had this conversation with my daughter more times than I can remember. She hates sucking at anything! And I have come to embrace the suck.

Here's how I have explained it to her.

If you're unwilling to suck at something, it means you're unwilling to try new things. Because there's no way to get good at something without initially not being great at it.

And if that's how you live life, it means you've peaked. Right now. Wherever you are. However old you are.

Can you imagine peaking at 16? What a horrible future you have in front of you.

So if you want to get better and improve and get good at new things, you have to be willing to suck.

Things Only Look Easy After a Lot of Work

A couple weeks ago I was invited to speak at a conference (the first in 20 months). I had a great time and really enjoyed being back on stage. Several hours after my talk, one of the attendees walked up to me to chat.

“I wish I could do what you do…just get up there and talk without any stress. I loved your stories and it's clear it comes natural to you.”

It's not the first or last time I'll hear something like that. And when I hear it, I smile. But imagine walking up to a professional basketball player and saying something like that, “I wish I could just go out and shoot three pointers without stress. It's clear it comes natural to you.”

It may look natural. But that only comes after hours, days, weeks, and years of work. You might be naturally tall. But everything else takes work.

And in order to make things appear easy and natural, you have to put in the work. And you won't start out being really good. You'll start out sucking.

  • My first presentation sucked.
  • My first website sucked.
  • My first blog post sucked.
  • My first coaching session sucked.
  • My first product sucked.
  • My first launch sucked.

You have to embrace that starting spot in order to move past it.

Microwaves vs Couches

Thirty years ago the thinking was that couches were the thing that would derail our growth and development. It was a symbol of people who got lazy and comfy in nice big couches and didn't develop their talent.

But over the years I've come away thinking that microwaves have done us more damage in the development of our skills than couches.

I know, you're thinking I've lost my mind.

But if you grew up with ovens, you knew things took time. A baked potato was going to take an hour to prepare. And then came microwaves. I was a kid when we got ours, but I remember how fast we could cook anything.

That potato could be done in 6 minutes (though not the same).

And I think that's what's plagued us over the last decade or two, when it comes to the development of any of our skills – we want to accomplish everything quickly.

Are You Willing to Suck?

When it comes to growing a Twitter following, are you willing to suck before you get good at short-form content (which today is tweetstorms all day long)?

When it comes to growing a YouTube following, are you willing to suck before you get traction with an audience (and you learn how to craft short videos that are helpful but also grab attention)?

When it comes to blogging and pulling readers to your site, are you willing to suck before you get good at writing more quickly?

I could go on and one with the questions, but you get the dynamic – you have to put in the reps. And you have to be willing to suck.

Here's What I'm Saying

There's this new world of web3, crypto, NFTs and more. I don't know or understand any of it. If I'm only willing to step into spaces where I'm an expert, I'll never learn any of it. I'll get old and irrelevant.

Or if I'm willing to suck, I can step into new spaces with my eyes and ears open, willing to learn new things, and potentially master a new space.

And I believe the same is true for you – in any context you're in.