by Niall Doherty

When it comes to making changes and trying new things, we’re often held back by the fear of sucking.

For example, say you want to switch careers. You’ve always loved painting but you’re not very good at it. You’ve never sold a piece of art in your life. Truth be told, you kind of suck at painting.

But that’s okay.

Even if you suck at it, you should go ahead and paint if that’s what you love to do.

Give yourself permission to suck. Everybody sucks before they no longer suck. There’s a period of suckage we all have to go through before we can create something worthwhile.

Sporty Website Suck

Take, the website I started back in 2003. For about four years, it sucked. It got very little traffic, very few comments, very little respect.

Now four years is a long time to suck, but I loved writing about my favorite basketball team so I stuck with it.

Nowadays that website receives thousands of visits each day, facilitates lots of smart discussions, and is affiliated with the biggest sports network in North America. It no longer sucks. Quite the opposite actually.

Sure, there were big changes that needed to be made along the way to stop it from sucking, but the biggest reason that website is what it is today is because I refused to quit during those four years of suckage. I knew the website sucked back then, but that was okay.

I gave myself permission to suck until I figured it all out.

Spontaneous Funny Suck

Recently I joined a comedy improv class.

It’s an 8 week course where they teach you how to be spontaneously funny on stage. At the end of the course we’ll have a graduation show in front of a live audience.

I sucked in the first two classes, and I’ll probably suck in a few more. Being improv funny is not like my regular way of being funny. There’s a lot I have to learn, and I’ll have to endure some suckage before I start to get it.

But that’s okay.

I give myself permission to suck. I’ll accept the discomfort and embarrassment for a while. That’s all part of learning.

How To Stop Sucking

It no longer takes me four years to stop sucking at stuff. I’ve learned a few things that help speed up the process. Such as:

  1. You can’t do something just once per week and expect to stop sucking in a hurry. Immerse yourself in it as much as possible. Improv comedy class is just once per week, but I’ve arranged practice sessions during the week with other class members. With the Hornets site, I moved to New Orleans and practically stalked the team. I got much better insights doing that than I did analyzing box scores from my bedroom in Ireland.
  2. Let go of how you think it should be done. We often have preconceptions of how things work, and we cling to those beliefs because we don’t like having to start over. I thought I should run that Hornets website all by myself, but it was only when I gave up control and invited other writers in did it really stop sucking. Likewise, with improv comedy, I have to let go of my traditional way of being funny and start over. To stop sucking, you have to be open to trying new things.
  3. Surround yourself with folks who support you in your efforts to not suck anymore. Learning improv comedy is tough, but it helps immensely that everyone in the class is supportive, in it together. Whatever you’re trying to not suck at, get with other people who are trying the same. It makes a big difference, trust me.

Go Forth And Suck

Is there something you’ve always wanted to try, but the fear of sucking has held you back? Give yourself permission to be terrible at it for a while. Embrace that discomfort and suckiness.

It’s the fastest way to get better.