Give Yourself Permission to Suck

The first couple times you do anything, chances are good… that you’re not going to be very good.

Hey, you might not be very good at it for months. If you make it a habit to try, slowly, maybe 2 minutes at a time… eventually, you’ll actually be good… and you’ll master the skill. “Two minutes isn’t enough now!” you’ll now say to yourself, and then you’ll move to five minutes. Then ten minutes. Then fifteen.

Before you can get there, though… you have to give yourself permission to suck.

It’s Okay to Suck; It’s Necessary to Suck

Most people don’t give themselves permission to suck. They think that there are people who are great at things (and are notable for being great at those things), and then there is them: ordinary person – and all of the ordinary people around them.

If they start trying to do something, their ordinary person friends try to push them down “why are you doing that?” “What a waste of time!” “Why don’t you just watch sitcoms and scan Facebook with your free time, fellow ordinary person?”

Unfortunately, most people give in.

They can’t stand to suck.

I Sucked Until I Didn’t Suck, But I Still Suck

Eight years ago, I sucked at writing. Shit, I didn’t even like writing. But for some unknown reason, I felt compelled to start a blog. My first blog post sucks. It’s one long, disjointed paragraph. It has no real point. It has a misspelling.

You know what? My second blog post sucks, too; and the third. In fact, I have tons of sucky blog posts. Even today, I have a pile of documents full of sucky writing that will never see the light of day, and I’ll be adding to it tomorrow with more half-baked suckery.

Eight years ago, I sucked at writing; and today I’m a published author of a book that has done pretty well. Is my book perfect? No. It has way more misspellings than my first blog post does, but I’m not too humble to admit that I don’t think it sucks at all. Still, some people disagree, but that’s okay.

Maybe someday I’ll write another book, and it will be a little better than my first book. It probably won’t be a perfect book, but I’ll be happy with it. Some people will still say that it sucks.

Other People Will Put the Fear of Suck in You

When I first started my blog, I heard a lot of the same things that most people hear when they start something they suck at. They wanted to know “why” I was doing it. How was I going to make money doing this? Shouldn’t I be working on my full-time job instead of wasting my time with this blog? (If this sounds totally ridiculous to you, keep in mind that I lived in Nebraska – I don’t know if this is what you would hear in other places, but certainly not Silicon Valley.)

What they didn’t understand – what most people don’t understand, is that someone doesn’t wave a magic wand to make you successful… or good at something.

You don’t just head down to the career center at your community college and fill out an application to be a successful entrepreneur, or a famous musician, or a professional basketball player.

You have to give yourself permission to suck, first.

Why You Should Suck, and Be Okay with It

There is nothing about sucking to fear, except sucking itself.

Think about something you want to try, but are afraid of sucking at. Why are you afraid of it? It’s probably because 1) it will make you feel crappy about yourself, 2) it will make you feel crappy about what other people think of you, and 3) that will make you feel crappy about yourself.

Those are valid fears (albeit without tangible consequences), but they are terrible reasons to not do something.

Here’s why you should suck:

  • Doing things you suck at can still be enjoyable. If you allow yourself to be okay with sucking, you can find bits of enjoyment in that activity. The crisp feeling of a well-struck golf shot, the satisfaction of a nailed yoga pose, or the feeling of dancing in time with a Salsa song for a moment can all be sensations that keep you coming back. Which leads me to the next reason.
  • Doing things you enjoy, can often lead to not sucking at them. If you find enjoyment in the things you suck at, you’ll do those things more, then – someday – you won’t suck at them anymore. Find a way to enjoy going to the gym (not overtraining, or by bringing a friend), or set small goals for yourself (just get yourself to the gym), and eventually you won’t suck at working out anymore.
  • One hone smooths another. It can be surprising what having varied interests – even ones that you suck at – can bring to your life. When I started taking dance lessons, I found that my typing got more accurate and fluid (seriously!). Doing yoga helped me discover that my brain works better when my muscles are stretched. It pays to nurture a Renaissance Mind.
  • Life is long, sucking is temporary. My final word of wisdom: “you have 40 or 50 more years to not suck. Can you give yourself permission to suck for a couple of weeks?” This is the most important reason to not be afraid to suck. If you find a way to be okay with sucking for a short time, you’ll have a whole lifetime to enjoy not sucking at that thing.

Now, what are you going to suck at?


For this post, YouTern thanks our friend, David Kadavy!


About the Author: David Kadavy is author of the book, Design for Hackers: Reverse-Engineering Beauty, which debuted at #18 on the Amazon bestseller list. David is also a freelance Designer, and President of Kadavy, Inc. Though based in Chicago, his clients include the stars of Silicon Valley, such as oDesk, UserVoice, and PBworks. Follow David on Twitter!


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