How to Suck at Anything

I used to spend a lot of time worrying about being terrible at things. I thought I would make a fool of myself. I thought I would be embarrassed. More than anything, I thought I would fail.

The truth is, all of those things usually happened when I tried to do anything that I wanted to do.

I looked pretty ridiculous, I was embarrassed, and I failed. A lot.

When I first started this blog some of my writing was pretty scary. But that’s what happens when you start anything.

You suck.

And that’s great. Sucking is absolutely necessary. There’s no way around it. In order to get better at anything, at some point or another you’re going to have to suck. That’s just the way it is.

So, here’s the secret to sucking at anything.

Start.

There’s also a secret to never failing and never being criticized.

Don’t do anything. Ever.

The only way to avoid criticism, avoid looking like a fool and failing is to not do anything at all. And if that’s okay with you, fine. But I don’t see any point in living if that’s the case.

When it comes down to it, if you ever want to get good at anything, at some point you’re going to have to suck.

I’d rather be terribly horrible at everything that I do, than do nothing at all. At least that way I know that I tried. I’ll know that I lived and I didn’t just exist.

There’s a secret I’ve learned, though. If you embrace that you suck, it loses its power over you.

So, stop wasting time reading this. Go find something to suck at.

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Comment & Add Your Voice

Samir January 12, 2010 at 8:19 am

GREAT POST!!! I have been struggling with starting my own blog and your post just inspired me!!!

Thanks!

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Travis | iStorm Training January 12, 2010 at 8:26 am

Great post Jonathan!

I think so many of us want to be perfect and do the right the first time.

Having a beginner’s mind is an ideal approach to take towards learning anything new. Being a beginner comes before being an expert at something.

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Jen January 12, 2010 at 9:16 am

Great reminder! I am really proud of how my blog is coming along but am sure one day I will be a better writer than I am now. I read somewhere at the beginning of this venture (I think it was a Steve Pavlina quote) that you will only get good at something by practising and keep doing it … so that’s my plan!

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Steven | The Emotion Machine January 12, 2010 at 9:28 am

Awesomely inspirational. Sucking has never seen so tempting before…had to tweet this!

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Steven | The Emotion Machine January 12, 2010 at 9:31 am

Also uploaded this to reddit! Really liked this one…

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Chris Pund January 12, 2010 at 9:35 am

Good post and topic Jonathan! Just taking that leap and doing something is the only way to see if you really could be good at something. Everybody has to start somewhere!

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Ficc January 12, 2010 at 9:37 am

After reading this, a few questions arise:

- Why do you or me or anybody should care about what others think about you, me or anybody?
- How do you define “suck at something”?

After all, what is being terrible at doing something? For example, one of my hobbies is painting. I started painting a few years ago, my paintings have improved over time, however “according” to art critiques, they are no more than child’s paintings when compared to a Chagal or a Picasso. But that, is their opinion, and I honestly don’t give a crap about what others think. And that is because I do love to paint, I do think that my paintings are excelent and getting better with time, and that doesn’t mean that I’m a great painter, it simply means, that I love what I do and it doesn’t matter if I’m good at it or if I suck.

What I mean with this is that if you suck at something it’s because you’re comparing yourself with someone else or with something else, and are thinking in terms of what others think about what you do.

Of course your friends and family’s opinion is important, but that is just it, an outside opinion; you can either accept it, because it may help you improve what your doing and like it even more or simply ignore it because that opinion does not make you good at it or suck at it.

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Ideas With A Kick January 12, 2010 at 10:54 am

Jonathan,

This post reinforces my theory that short posts are the most powerful. It’s quite inspirational.

I think we as humans take failure to seriously. So instead of acting, we wait and wait and wait. It’s essential that we learn to be less serious about this stuff.

Eduard

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Jon | Adventures of the Fearless January 12, 2010 at 10:56 am

You got it Jonathan

The secret to getting ahead is to get started

Adjust along the way

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Mosotomoss January 12, 2010 at 11:16 am

Hey. Jonathan. Interesting Post. We always tell our clients, you will never know what you can do until you do it! Just be in the presence of learning and receiving.

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James NomadRip January 12, 2010 at 11:40 am

I’d leave a comment, but I have far too many other things to suck at. I am going to go do those things instead.

And thanks for the reminder.

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Myowngenjutsu January 12, 2010 at 12:29 pm

Excelent!

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Oscar - freestyle mind January 12, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Actually I know a few people who prefer to suck at anything. I don’t know why precisely, although I guess it’s laziness. I think I’ll go with your last advice now ;)

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Mike Turitzin January 12, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Great post.

It’s becoming more and more obvious to me that getting over one’s fear of failure and embarrassment is a prerequisite to living an interesting and worthwhile life.

Why is it so unpleasant to suck? Because it’s embarrassing. We tend to stick to the things we’re good at for fear that we’ll embarrass ourselves if we venture into new areas.

The good news about embarrassment is that it’s entirely in our own control. Don’t want to feel embarrassed? Then don’t. Failure and ineptitude are only embarrassing if you think they are. And why should you? Both are extremely powerful avenues of growth.

It’s impossible not to get better at something that you’re failing at consistently. On the other hand, it’s very possible to make no progress when you aren’t trying at all.

Of course, failing is more easily talked about than experienced. I’m trying hard to make failure a bigger part of my life :)

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Hugh January 12, 2010 at 3:10 pm

Wow, this title sure got my attention! I am just starting out blogging and I know I’m not great yet, but I hope I don’t suck! haha You’re right, I can already see myself getting a little better at writing. As soon as I began reading this post, one of my fave quotes came to mind:

“Ever Tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.” – Samuel Beckett

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Steve January 12, 2010 at 3:40 pm

The fear of failure is a big hurdle to overcome.

I’ve decided my goal for 2010 is to produce one new thing every month for the whole year. A web app, an ebook, a plugin, whatever – one new thing each month and I’ll release it before the month’s out not matter what state it’s in.

The fear of failure and the quest for perfection has stopped me releasing a ton of stuff in the past. So now I’m just going for it and now worrying about how much it’s gonna suck.

I’ve already done January’s: http://www.steveify.com/uncategorized/themeperpost-wordpress-plugin-released/

Cheers,
Steve.

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Michael M January 12, 2010 at 3:46 pm

Jonathan, sometimes you suck :)

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curiousjessica January 12, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Great advice, Jonathan. Its fear of sucking that paralyses us and stops us from achieving greatness. Im going to suck at at least one thing today!

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Tomas Stonkus January 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm

I suck at public speaking!

I found that out yesterday! I gave my first speech at Toastmasters and after I was done I wanted more!

Still feeling that you can improve and knowing how to do that is a great feeling! I know I suck now, but if I continue practicing then I will do better and better and better until I don’t suck.

That’s the point of failure, it just identifies the areas in which you need to improve on! Once you understand that, you almost start to seek failure!

I can’t imagine life without failing!

Best,
Tomas

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kelly January 12, 2010 at 4:45 pm

I am afraid of failing so I NEVER step out and try anything really — never complete anything really. Now I find out I am supposed to suck at it ….. well that’s a new perspective that I really should have figured out myself. AWESOME post

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Christiaanh January 12, 2010 at 4:46 pm

Ah yes, the ever popular faceplant. The perfect way to learn how to do something is to suck at it for a long long time, finding all the ways not to do it, untill you find a way that works.

It’s the essential in learning, embrace the suck and go for it

A great post again Jonathan, short, not to short… make your point and get out again. Nice!

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Oleg Mokhov January 12, 2010 at 4:54 pm

Hey Jonathan,

Fail often to succeed faster.

People often confuse failure as the opposite of success. No, failure is just finding out what doesn’t work. We all suck and fail at first. So find what doesn’t work faster by trying and doing more. The quicker you find what doesn’t work, the faster you hone in on what does and succeed.

Here’s to sucking to success (not the porn kind, unless that’s someone’s goal),
Oleg

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Tess The Bold Life January 12, 2010 at 5:12 pm

I’m speaking professionally tomorrow after a two year absence. I’m going to give myself permission to suck. After all I’ve decided to begin again:)

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Fabian January 12, 2010 at 5:41 pm

Oh man, I suck at commenting, but I’ll give it a try anything.

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Mark Dowdell January 12, 2010 at 6:07 pm

Hahaha!

This is the wittiest and most striking post I have ever had the pleasure of reading. I couldn’t stop smiling the whole way through. I love to suck at stuff. I’ve always wondered what people’s problem is with me trying out things that I’m not good at. I guess they just suck at sucking.

Thanks for this short gem, Jonathan.

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Aaron January 12, 2010 at 6:31 pm

This was so timely for me personally. I appreciate your words.

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Jeb January 12, 2010 at 7:13 pm

The best part in the process of sucking is the learning. I’ve gone a number of different directions w/ my blog because once I start going down a certain road, I find certain things I wasn’t expecting. So I change course a bit. Then do it again. And again. That inconsistency is kinda suckish if you just look at that, but at some point, it’ll lead me where I want to be.

True in the real (non-internet) world too. I’ve skateboarded all my life, but never hit up a skate park…until yesterday. I’d been taking my boys and supporting their interest in it. So I finally bought a helmut and some pads and got in there. I definitely sucked (kinda :) ), but today I was better, and even dropped in a bowl for the first time in my life.

So yeah, actually sucking is quite rad, and much better than worrying about sucking.

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Sibyl - alternaview January 12, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Great post. We all need our own license to suck. It is such a good point and really does provide you with the confirmation that it is okay to live and learn. Sometimes you really do just have to put yourself out there and having a license to suck allows us to give anything we really want a shot. Really great and inspirational post.

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Meg at Demanding Joy January 12, 2010 at 8:01 pm

Thank you for a fantastic post. I think of the things I never did out of fear of sucking. The irony is that no one cares whether or not I suck because they’re too busy worrying about their own suckitude. Thanks to you, I’m making a list of those things and I’m going to do them! Tap dancing, here I come. Thanks!

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Harry January 12, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Rockin post. I’m building my blog now and glad to know I’m sucking pretty bad!

It’s like playing darts. You have to throw it the first time…and chances are you’re going to miss. The whole dart board! Extreme suckdom(if that’s a word). But it is that throw that will give you the information to make adjustments for your next throw. And soon enough you’ll be finding your way towards the bullseye.

Like this blog for example. Consistent bullseyes, post after post!

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bloominglater January 12, 2010 at 9:25 pm

so good to know since i am going through a period of mass suckage. can’t find my direction – but i shall suck on…i mean…trod on.

thanks for it!

~bloom

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Audrey Cherwin January 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm

Yeah, I suck at sucking, but after reading this great post and comments I’ve decided to suck at some new things and LIKE IT a lot more. Love it…

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Francis January 12, 2010 at 10:16 pm

Love this post (especially the title!!)

Too many people are afraid of failing and sucking, that’s why they don’t even try. Pity.

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Laura January 13, 2010 at 1:32 am

You suck man….
Loving u

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Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com January 13, 2010 at 2:21 am

Nice, short and to the point. When you start at anything you are gonna be terrible. Show me the leader in any field and that person was terrible at some point. Great post.

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nudgeme January 13, 2010 at 6:38 am

Loved this post Jonathan, really resonated with me as the ‘perfectionist procrastinater’ I can be …!! Giving yourself permission to suck at anything is such a good message and, as you say, definitely preferable to doing nothing …. and anyway what one person might view as sucking at something, another will think is doing well, so it’s a nudge to do your own thing and worry less about what people think.

All the best

Tamsin@nudgeme

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HappySadThoughts January 13, 2010 at 7:35 am

I just took the initiative at work and made a fool of myself. Which prompted the decision to never stick out my head again at work – I will last longer this way. But that’s so not me, I am much more alive than that. So thank you for the inspiration, now let me go and find something else to suck at, at least there will be more stories to tell to my future grandchildren.

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Marcus Sheridan, The Sales Lion January 13, 2010 at 9:23 am

This post was perfect for me today Jonathan, as I was debating ‘to suck or not to suck’…..so looks like I’ll get back to the grind and keep sucking…..You’re great man, thanks for your work. :)

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jforest January 14, 2010 at 9:10 am

Haha, this is the best advice ever! I love it. I’m out there sucking at photography as we speak! GO ME!

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Sam Cox January 14, 2010 at 9:57 am

The best motivational post — ever!

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Christoph Dollis January 15, 2010 at 11:04 am

Just the first 2 paragraphs of your post made me laugh and smile.

Too right!

I said to myself, “I love this guy,” spontaneously. What I mean, of course, is that I think about it the same way, when I think of it consciously.

I could use more doing.

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Dr. Jennifer Howard January 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Yes, thank you. We must be willing to fail if we are ever to succeed. Being bad at something is a start and we can go up from there. If your heart longs to do something, try it, learn it and enjoy it as best you can.

Dr. Jennifer Howard
http://www.drjenniferhoward.com/free-gift.asp

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Kelly January 15, 2010 at 9:21 pm

This is a wonderfully written post Jonathan. Thanks so much for sharing it! And it is definitely true. When you embrace the fact that you may or may not fail the power of uncertainty loses it’s hold on you. Thanks for sharing you are a wonderful writer!

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S.Smith January 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm

Suck at things and be wrong. Both are fun in the long run, not so comfortable in the short run.

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Nea | Self Improvement Saga January 17, 2010 at 7:24 pm

I like it…. never be afraid to suck at anything.

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Katie West/The Levity Coach January 18, 2010 at 10:30 pm

Jonathan
As usual….Brilliance.
When I was in my early 20s I would have “Katie suck days” and I would declare that doe that day everything might very well suck and I was quite okay with it and did not feel the need to change it. It was liberating for me–

But what I felt was that it is okay for life to be messy. Perfection is not what life is about. It is about diving in, getting dirty, and living it. And well of course now, I just laugh when I feel like I suck. It is the best trick to free me from over thinking something. I just laugh where it seems too tense to laugh and I feel like things aren’t so precious.

And things do not seem to suck as much either.

be well!
Katie

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M January 27, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Amazing!

Number one reason I hate to golf: I’m horrible at it.
I’m horrible because I don’t practice, and I don’t practice because I’m horrible.
Maybe next summer, I’ll make a resolution to embrace the horrible-ness and stick it out.

Thanks!

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Fantasia Lillith January 29, 2010 at 8:04 am

I loved this post – even if I come to it late. Last March I started my own blog. I have had an intense need and desire to write short erotic stories since I was a teenager. What has stopped me?/ so long in fact that I waited to be in my 30′s to do this? Fear … fear at sucking at it!

Once I had felt the fear and done it anyway … I discovered a large group of people that have helped me hone my craft and who knows – perhaps one day I’ll try to publish more than a blog.

Your post was short, fun and very very true.

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Carrie January 29, 2010 at 9:43 am

If there’s one thing that’s stopped me from learning new stuff, it’s my ego. If I’m not having fun, it’s because I’m too worried about how I look to other people (especially those who are clearly more experienced than me).

I need to take this post and stick it to my wall. With that thought, I’m going to go suck at something. LOL

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Gianpaolo Pietri | The Optimalists January 29, 2010 at 12:08 pm

This is something I have struggled with throughout my life. For a long time, if I knew that I wasn’t going to be the best at something, or at least look like I knew what I was doing, I simply wouldn’t do it … This reluctance to being embarrassed, and to fail at something kept me from doing a bunch of things I was extremely interested in. It kept me from allowing myself to be me, and to be truly free. As a result, I feel i have missed out, over the years … growing up … on many opportunities that would have led me in new directions … and to discover new things, form new relationships, etc. It is only recently that I have made great efforts to get over it, get out there, and do what I want … not what I feel i will be good at, and a result new opportunities seem to spring up from the most unlikely places.

I still have that innate sense to avoid embarrasment and failure, and I’m not sure it ever really goes away. Knowing that it is there, and why, gives me the power to conquer it.

Thanks for a great post. The concept of letting yourself suck should be taught at a very young age, to inspire people from their youth to go after the things they want, and make their dreams come true.

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Farouk February 16, 2010 at 1:59 am

a person has to suck at things first in order to learn from his mistakes then be able to do them well, just as you said its all about starting

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Bob O'Reilly April 28, 2010 at 6:07 pm

WTF??

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