Be Brave Enough to Suck at Something New
Learning anything new can be intimidating. It doesn’t matter what it is or how old you are, there’s a suck curve associated with learning anything new and you’re likely to feel this ickiness at various times throughout the learning process. I have sucked at many things until I finally conquered them.
Many call it a learning curve, but for some it’s more like a rollercoaster. You start out going straight up until you hit a plateau, followed by a sharp drop, then maybe a smaller hill to climb, with a smaller drop… you get the picture. Life is much the same.
I joined a swim team at the local YMCA when I was 14. I could barely make it through one practice. I sucked. So many other activities had come so easily to me… ballet, gymnastics, whatever I tried I excelled in, until I got into that pool. I went home dejected and feeling like a complete failure.
But something about the sport had drawn me in and I kept going back, training harder, and I improved. I got faster. Fast enough that as a freshman in high school I was on the varsity swimming team. That definitely did not suck!
Track didn’t go so well for me. I tried for two weeks, forcing my gawky teenage body to do sprints and leg-burners around that track. I did everything I could but still felt like an ostrich with arms and legs flailing. I sucked and I knew I wasn’t going to get any better, so I quit. I don’t consider that a failure, I consider that a reality. Some things just aren’t for you. And that’s ok.
The word “Failure” triggers such strong emotions, conjuring thoughts of futile efforts and incompetence. But rarely in any venture is the trajectory to success a straight line. Setbacks are to be expected, especially at the beginning.
Some people get so upset with themselves for not being able to do something right the first time which is absolutely absurd. Learning a new skill or acquiring new understanding takes time. Give yourself a break.
Some activities, sports, and interests have higher learning curves than others, and rarely does someone get out of the gate without some sort of mistakes, bumps, or setbacks; it’s part of the process. It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning to code, learning to cook, taking up photography, or riding a motorcycle — improvement and understanding take time. You’ve got to expect, and be willing to be crappy for awhile, knowing that failures or setbacks at the beginning is normal, and in many cases, needed.
“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” ― Dale Carnegie
Fear is also a normal component of any learning curve. Especially when you’re putting your ass or your ego on the line. “Am I good enough?” “Is my idea stupid? “Will anyone ever buy this product?” We all want and hope to be good, but being good requires being bad long enough to learn the skills, techniques, and tricks to finally get good. And it can be humbling process. Failing sucks. And sometimes it hurts.
I should know. I’ve accomplished a lot in my time on earth. But it hasn’t come without its failures, mishaps, and injuries. I’ve scuba dived to 160 feet and learned to fly an airplane, I’ve earned black belts in 3 martial arts, I’ve been a competitive dancer, I’ve raced cars and taught high performance driving. I’m very athletic and coordinated, but there are just some things I suck at, have and always will.
I don’t play tennis. Picture that same gawky ostrich on a tennis court. I can’t golf. I went to a driving range and hit the ground twice while swinging and sprained two fingers. I can’t ride a skateboard — sprained my ankle as a kid, and thought I’d paralyzed myself trying to learn to snowboard — my body just doesn’t know how to move properly for some activities — and I’m okay with that.
I’d always been attracted to motorcycles, the sexy crotch rocket types, but thought I’d kill myself in the first year so I never tried.
One day I was at a race track doing some testing with cars and there were motorcycle racers there. I watched with envy as they slid their bodies from side to side, hanging off at what seemed like impossible angles, and I thought it was so cool.
I asked one of the racers to teach me. I started on a small bike, then moved up to a race bike the next day on a race track. It was awesome!!!
Even though I’d earned my motorcycle license I’d never ridden on the street. It’s a whole different world out there.
On-going training, in many endeavors, is not only necessary, but required. The more potentially dangerous the sport, the more important advanced skills become.
I have a friend who’s an amateur photographer. She started out just taking pictures around her property, but in order to improve, she knew she needed to learn new skills. So she takes classes and goes on photography expeditions with teachers. Those new skills created the need to learn editing software, so more classes and more practice. It never stops, and that’s the point. Learning should never stop. There are always new things to learn and improve on.
The skills and information taught in a motorcycle class teach you only what you need to know to get a motorcycle driver’s license. These skills are nowhere adequate enough to ride on the road with cars and trucks. The training is minimal and the level of potential danger requires additional training and constant practice. I didn’t have enough of either.
One day coming home from a ride I was turning into my driveway, going no more than 2 mph. I made a right turn and hit the front brake too hard. It’s such a newbie move, but unless someone teaches you this, or you experience it for yourself, you will never learn. The bike jerked to a stop and started to fall over. The angle of the bike and the and the speed which the bike fell did not give me time to move my leg out from under it, so to prevent myself from being pinned beneath the bike, I held it as it fell down, all 400 pounds of it, tearing my hamstring off my butt bone. The pain was excruciating and I laid down in the street as people drove by. No one stopped.
It was weeks before I could walk without a limp or pain, but I got back on the bike long before my leg was healed. To say I was scared is a complete understatement — petrified is more accurate. I was scared I was almost crying, but I didn’t let that stop me. I had to conquer that bike. The second ride wasn’t much better, but I kept on trying and I kept sucking, but it didn’t stop me.
Sometime later I went riding with a friend and he saw how sucky my riding skills were. He saw that I lacked the skill and confidence to safely and comfortably handle the machine and recommended a class with a riding coach. I’m so grateful he did. I jumped at the opportunity and have taken several classes over the last couple of years. My skills, abilities, and confidence have skyrocketed, but I couldn’t have accomplished this success without sucking up my ego and acknowledging that I needed help and further training.
“Do not judge me by my successes; judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” ― Nelson Mandela
Life is like that. You try something new. You like it, it intrigues you, but you suck. So you try some more, and maybe have a little success, but you know you still suck. So you apply yourself, finding new opportunities to learn and improve, and slowly, with dedication, you do. There still may be some sucky patches, but the more you learn and the more you practice the better you get. That, in turn, builds confidence, which creates more success. So give yourself the chance to suck. It just may change your life.