I was lifting weights the other day when it dawned on me how much I enjoy going to the gym. Doing heavy sets of squats, something I used to hate, has become something I now look forward to doing.
It was only a couple of years ago that I dreaded going to the gym. I didn’t enjoy it because I sucked at lifting weights. I was weak and had poor form, which made me self-conscious when working out alone. It was easy for me to make excuses to skip the gym because I didn’t want to be “that guy” who didn’t know what he was doing.
Weight lifting, like any skill, is going to be challenging when you first start. You’re going to be unsure how to do a lot of things while you try to navigate what you’re trying to learn. So, how can you get past this initial phase of sucking to the point of actually being good?
It’s Okay to Suck
I have learned to be okay with sucking at something. Because do you know what is worse than sucking? Being held back by your fear of failure from ever trying something new in the first place.
If you look around, you might notice most people don’t even allow themselves to suck at something new. Our minds manufacture self-limiting beliefs that convince us to stay in our lane to focus on what we already do well. We box ourselves in by giving ourselves false labels such as:
“Oh, I’m not a runner.”
“I’m way too old to try to learn a second language.”
“I’m too introverted to go strike up a conversation with that stranger.”
The risk of trying something new and looking like a fool is too threatening to your ego.
Similar to learning how to lift weights a few years ago, I recently embraced the challenge of learning how to write a blog. Even though I disliked writing when I was in school, I felt compelled to start this creative project, knowing I have full control over its direction. I have chosen to play the role of a novice once again.
Since deciding to make my work public, I have gotten some questions that mimic the kind of questions you get asked when you first suck at something. Some people wanted to know “why” I write and share it publicly. They wanted to know why I would spend my time on something that isn’t making me money or related to my career.
My response to their questions would be my desire to better understand myself and the world around me through the act of writing is all the motivation I need. I have accepted that I must first be a novice before I can have a clear understanding of my motives and desires.
I would be lying if I said I never worried about my work being embarrassingly bad. After hitting ‘publish’ I often wonder what criticism I will receive regarding my poor grammar and syntax. The self-doubt mixed with occasional self-loathing is all a part of the process. But I publish my work anyways. I do it because I want to create value, and the only way to provide high-level value is to keep writing until my crappy content gradually improves over time.
“If you aren’t embarrassed by the first version of your product, you shipped too late.”
Embracing the Suck
Going through this process of producing creative work is a constant struggle but a worthwhile journey. I’ve had to fight with my “monkey mind” as it commits mental gymnastics to rationalize I am an engineer and therefore not a writer. The only way I was able to counteract these manifestations of fear was to attack it with an even stronger power – my curiosity to learn and grow.
The driving force behind my willingness to share my writing publicly is my curiosity to learn how to be a better thinker and a better writer. Eventually, I became more interested in improving my writing skills and less worried about how much bad content I would have to publish first to get there.
I have embraced the fact that it will probably take hundreds – if not thousands – of drafts to go from “suck” to “outstanding.” I believe that is just the nature of creative work, and nobody is exempt from the process. The only way for me to fail is to create nothing – to give up. For this reason, I have permitted myself to suck.
The Path to Success
I’ve learned to accept new challenges with open arms while pursuing my interests. You can find joy in the process while still being bad at it. As long as you stay committed, you can witness the small improvements happen right in front of you.
Lately, I found peace in knowing that as long as I keep challenging myself, I will continue to improve. Previously, I allowed my fear of looking like a fool prevent me from writing out my thoughts. I finally realized that I could read all of the articles on creating a blog that I wanted, but until I wrote my first post, I would never improve.
It’s a slow process, but it’s a path I am willing to travel. Looking back on my journey thus far, I can already witness some signs of improvement. Knowing that I am getting just a little bit better each day is enough to stay motivated. I am nowhere near where I want to be, but each post gets me one step closer.
I’m going to keep creating, however bad it might be because I am determined to embrace the suck in my pursuit of progress. Maybe in a couple of years from now, I will return back to this post and smile as I read it. Not because I will be impressed by the writing, but because I will realize how far I’ve come.