Last summer, I took a one-day intensive on songwriting in NYC, and learned all about song structure, chord progressions, lyric writing and musical collaboration.
I also learned what has turned out to be an absolutely invaluable lesson. What my instructor* shared was so simple, so true – and yet so easily overlooked by people attempting something new, particularly perfectionists. Ready for this profound lesson? It’s just three words:
DARE TO SUCK.
Here’s the deal: anyone can dream. It really doesn’t take much daring to dream and it’s pretty easy to do.
What’s harder – so much harder – is taking action on that dream and grappling with the fact that you will actually SUCK at whatever it is you’re trying to do.
Because unfortunately, contrary to the standard Hollywood/fairy-tale version of an unknowing prodigy trying something new and immediately being AMAZING at it, in reality, you’re pretty much always gonna suck at first.
Even if you have an aptitude for something – whether it’s singing, writing, number-crunching, interior design, marketing, or whatever else – you’ll find that your natural ability only extends so far. After that, what’s going to pull you through and make you a star is good old-fashioned hard work.
And in the meantime – you’re gonna suck.
The problem with not being good at something at first – particularly something you want SO BADLY to be AWESOME at – is that you can get easily discouraged. Especially if you feel like you have a natural gift or talent for something – if it doesn’t turn out perfect right out of the gate, you may think, “Guess I was wrong, there’s no way I can do this, I don’t have a talent for it after all.”
And that is CRAZY talk!!
What I learned from this teacher – and what I have continued to learn on my own ever since – is that you have to make peace with the learning curve that comes with doing anything new.
You have to know…
You will fail, repeatedly.
Your progress will often be agonizingly slow.
You will want to give up many times so you can spare yourself the pain of feeling constantly defeated.
You’ll convince yourself that your natural talent or your desire to do something was just a mirage, a fleeting daydream, and that you should abandon it in favor of something easier and less painful – that job you’ve been in forever but don’t actually love, perhaps. Or a life without pursuing that hobby you’ve always had your eye on. Or living without a significant other in your life.
But I’m here to tell you…
Don’t take the easy way out.
Don’t abandon that thought or dream.
Don’t give up too soon, just because it’s hard and you suck at it for the moment.
Just know that it WILL get better.
Maybe not on your desired timeline, but it will. The learning curve may be long or short, steep or gentle, but you’ll always have to go through it in some form before you can begin to excel at your craft or pursuit.
I may have first heard about this from that songwriting instructor, but the universe has been teaching me this lesson time and again for a while now…
For example, during the first year of a new, supposedly “dream” job, I was miserable, exhausted, overwhelmed, defeated, and ready to throw in the towel. The second year, building on all I had learned and leveraging my own newfound knowledge, I totally kicked ass and had a great time doing it! I realized later that I just needed to suck at it for the first year before I could come into my own and excel at my job.
Or when I first took up singing – something I had longed to do my whole life and I thought perhaps I had a teeny-tiny, miniscule bit of talent for – it was fun right at first while I made some fast initial progress. Then everything came to a screeching halt as I hit the harder lessons and suddenly realized that I would have to put in a ton of work, and not everything would come so easily.
It was really discouraging and depressing, and it caused me to doubt my own abilities and think that perhaps I had made it all up in my mind. But with practice, learning, continued lessons, and stretching myself more than I thought possible, I’ve gotten better and better. Even though I know I have SO much more learning to do, today I’m a much more confident and able singer – I just didn’t realize that I would need to suck at it first, before I could get better.
But the latest version of this lesson is taking place even as I type this. Right now, as I try to build up Brave New Biz and create something of value that I can share with the world, I’m honestly feeling discouraged. I get a bit of feedback now and then from readers, but on the whole, I feel like I’m speaking into a microphone that’s not turned on.
And suddenly I’m plagued by doubts again.
Does anything I say resonate with anyone?
Do the topics I blog about interest anyone? Am I an idiot for trying to do this?
Will I ever impact anyone’s life in a positive way?
Will I ever make a difference?
Should I just give up?
So you see, I’m not just writing this blog post for you folks out there – I’m also writing it for me. Because this is what I need to remember right now:
For this first year…I’m gonna suck.
I’m going to make mistakes, head down the wrong side-streets, miss out on opportunities. There will be things that I don’t know that will hold me back from success. There will be times when I feel like I have no damn business trying to do any of this – write, help others, quit my job, build a business.
And I need to remember that all this is OK. In fact, it’s to be expected. It’s just part of the process. And as long as I keep working, trying, learning, and moving forward, I’ll get past this.
And you will too.
So if you’re feeling discouraged or defeated or just hating the fact that you’re not yet amazing at what you’re pursuing, just remember this:
Anyone can dare to dream.
It’s the people who dare to suck who will ultimately see their dreams come true.
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* Edit 8/21/13: If you’re interested in songwriting, my instructor’s name is Alex Forbes and I highly recommend her! I took the one-day intensive via Gotham Writers’ Workshop in New York City. Alex’s book is called Write Songs Right Now, which I’ve just downloaded myself.
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Climber photograph via Dreamstime. “Dare to Suck” poster design (C) Brave New Biz.