Friday, 9 November 2012

Permission To Suck

Every day I make a mistake at something. It has gotten to the point where even my wife is getting tired of me moping around, constantly beating myself up for every little thing that I do wrong. However, the other day, she told me that it's okay to make mistakes and that no one expects people to be perfect as long as you are learning.

Then, today I saw this article that really spoke to me about my journey in the creation of a startup and bring the iWishfor app to life.

The author, David Kardavy, talks about giving yourself "permission to suck". Here is the article with a link back to the original.

My friend is one of those people who swears she “can’t” meditate. She can’t sit still that long. She can’t think of “nothing.” The times that she tried meditating, she kept thinking of things, and got frustrated.
It probably doesn’t help that my friend was once a soloist in one of the top ballet companies in the world. She has been trained to achieve perfection, and can’t accept any less.

My recommendations to her were: 1) meditate for two lousy minutes 2) do it every day, and 3) give yourself permission to suck.

It’s natural to think of other things when you’re meditating – especially if you’re just starting. If you didn’t think of other things, something would be wrong with you. However, if you couldn’t meditate for two minutes, something else would be wrong with you. Of course you can meditate for two minutes.

The first couple of times you do it, you’re not going to be very good at it. Hey, you might not be very good at it for months, but if you make it a habit to try it, slowly, eventually, you’ll actually be good at it. You’ll even start to like it. “Two minutes isn’t enough!” you’ll say to yourself, and you’ll move to five minutes. Then ten minutes. Then fifteen.
But before you can get there, 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 and 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. Remember my friend who couldn’t meditate? My final word of wisdom for her was “you have 40 or 50 more years to not suck at meditating. 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?
Such an important lesson to understand, realize and live. You are allowed to make mistakes. You have to sometimes live with the consequences but, as my friend and co-founder says, at the end of the day, what's the worse that can happen? If you say, "death", well then, maybe you need to re-evaluate your choice. But other than that, give yourself permission to suck at something, learn what you need to learn and be great. When I started as a teacher, I quickly realized that I didn't have all the answers. It took me four years before I could even say that I was close to being good. And I made a lot of mistakes during that time. Lots! But you get through it and move on. While you may think that the Earth is coming crashing around your head, it really isn't.

So, I am giving myself permission to suck at this whole thing recognizing that when I choose to continue with it, I can only get better.