Be Brave Enough to Suck at Something New. The above image has been making its way around Facebook. In fact, I posted it. The message really resonated with me. It is something that I had already been pondering in my own journey of trying something new—with this blog and my other writing.
“Putting myself out there” is something that does not come easy for me, but is something that comes with the territory of pursuing my creative goals. My debut novel for example, which was published a few years ago, is by no means perfect. I wanted to publish it with a front page of disclaimers—basically asking readers to be kind and not too judgmental. It was my first attempt at writing a novel. And as I complete my first draft of my next novel (and then the sequel to my first novel), I am asking myself, “AM I (gulp) Brave Enough to Suck Again at Something New?”
In asking myself this question, I had some insights . . . starting with the realization that EVERY EXPERT OR PROFESSIONAL WAS ONCE A NOVICE. All the greats had to START somewhere. They weren’t instantly great. They had to put themselves “out there” and try, sometimes “sucking” but yet, BUILDING upon that initial attempt.
Take Michael Jordan, a basketball legend. Do you think he just showed up on the basketball court and impressed everyone immediately with his prowess? No, this gifted athlete as a sophomore in high school did not make the Varsity Basketball team. But he didn’t let that stop him.
As he states, “Whenever I was working out and got tired and ﬁgured I ought to stop, I’d close my eyes and see that list in the locker room without my name on it. That usually got me going again.”
As a fan of the series, Mad Men, I love Jon Hamm, who portrayed Don Draper so masterfully. Do you think he started his career as a fearless and accomplished actor? No!
As he stated in an Entertainment Weekly interview, “I kept showing up and I kept trying. And I kept trying to push down the voice that was saying, ‘You’re terrible. Someone’s better than you. They’re going to give the part to the other guy.’ And elevate the part of me that said, like, ‘You’re worth it. You should be here’.”
Michael Jordan and Jon Hamm–and other accomplished greats–did not become instant successes; they weren’t child prodigies who mastered their craft on their very first attempt at doing it.
But yet, we compare our fledgling starts with the top elite. We allow their success to intimidate us and convince us into thinking we must be perfect in order to present our work, which brings me to point #2. . .
Don’t judge or compare your start with someone else’s success. Everyone has their own timing and path. Yes, everyone begins as a novice (as stated above); sometimes there’s some luck thrown into the mix. However, it is important that we do not compare ourselves EVER to someone else. Because what we ultimately do is compare the weakest and most vulnerable parts of ourselves with someone’s best parts.
Taking a risk means betting on yourself. And as scary as that may sound, here are some things to remember:
1) People Want You to Succeed.
Years ago, when writing my first book, I kept a blog chronicling my writing. One of the things I addressed was my fear of putting out my novel, in which one of my childhood friends commented, talking about his fear of public speaking:
“an audience WANTS the speaker to succeed. As such, audiences actively seek to find some aspect of a speaker’s personality and his/her message to which they can relate (even if that is a fear of public speaking) and, as a result, there is no need for the speaker to be perfect to be credible or make an impact. I think, perhaps, that the audiences of books are the same. Readers WANT to lose themselves in your story, and so if they find something to like and to which they can relate, they will open their hearts and minds to believe what you want them to believe.”
I’ve held on to that advice and it has served me well. I truly believe it to be true. While there will be critics and, sadly, some that take delight in other’s failures, the majority of people find inspiration in others’ successes, especially if you are . . .
2) Being (Be) True to You.
When taking a risk, be sure that it is YOUR risk and truly your passion. Sometimes we become so influenced by others’ opinions that we talk ourselves into doing something that is not truly what our heart feels is right. With each new venture, there will be challenges. When we get stuck or a problem arises, it is important that we rely on our initial passion to push us through. If we take a risk on something that we’re not really passionate about then it will be HARDER to push ourselves past the hurdles.
Most importantly, when your HEART IS IN IT, the genuineness of your words, action, and risk will reveal itself. This authenticity is what will resonate with others causing them to overlook any flaws and root for you and your success.
3) Be Open to Critiques, BUT Do So With Discernment.
In order to improve, it is important to be open to constructive criticism (keyword: constructive). Sometimes we are so closely vested in our project or goal that we close ourselves off to suggestions or recommendations. We may become defensive, thinking that any suggestions are horrible affronts against our abilities. The skill of being open with discernment is a skill that I’ve gotten better at as I’ve gotten older. It can be so hard to take people’s feedback and not take it personally.
What I’ve come to learn is that feedback is necessary. We are often so close to our work that we never step back to look from an outsider’s perspective. There can be a lot of validity in others’ critiques. At the same time, YOU know what is best for your work. It is really important to take a deep breath, LISTEN to others, and then TO YOUR HEART and GUT to see if their advice truly helps and makes your work better. Sometimes it does. Sometimes it doesn’t. The point is to first be open (not defensive) and receptive to hearing advice and contemplating its validity and applicability to your work.
4) Keep Learning, Training, Practicing, and Honing Your Skill.
All professionals have become that way through time and concerted effort. They WORKED at it; they STUDIED; they put in hours of practice. While I (now finally) consider myself a “writer”, I am also improving and then improving some more. I have a lot to learn, and I am willing and open to practice and do what it takes to become better. That involves reading, learning from others, and being receptive to advice.
I grew up being an avid Redskins fan (I still am), but being in Baltimore with a die-hard Ravens fan-husband, I am also a Ravens fan. Since the Redskins haven’t been – let’s just say – the most stellar of teams (NO COMMENT), I had stopped watching as much football. But now, with Lamar Jackson as the Raven’s quarterback, I find myself watching more. He is just so much fun to watch. If you listen to sports commentators, they talk about Lamar’s work ethic. He is the first one on the field; he’s in the weight room lifting, watching and studying film, focusing on the areas needing to improve, and doing the work to get better.
When interviewed during the summer training camp (not knowing if his hard work would pay off), Lamar had the following to say:
“My first day, I sucked. Second day I did better. Today was all right, but it could have been better. I’m always trying to be perfect in practice. So, yeah, it was all right for the first week. I don’t feel like I’m the best I can be right now. I’ll have to see when the season comes. Still working.”
His example and leadership have inspired his teammates who have upped their game as well.
As teammate safety Tony Jefferson was quoted as saying, “Lamar is our quarterback. It’s his team. We’re following his lead. We know how big of a leader he can be, and how special he can be on the football field. He’s putting in the work, and that’s the type of guy he is.”
(Superstitiously knocking on wood), this HARD WORK APPEARS TO BE WORKING.
5) Look Back at All Your Past FIRST TIMES of TRYING SOMETHING NEW.
Take some time to reflect on all your FIRST ATTEMPTS. Remember how impossible and hard it may have seemed at first, but how easy it is for you today.
Take something as simple as walking. As an infant, taking those first steps was scary but exciting. Walking is second nature, something we sadly take for granted. YET believe-it-or-not, walking was a HUGE thing for us at one point. So was driving a car. It was new and intimidating, but the idea of driving superseded our fear. So, we did it. We took driver’s education; we got into the car and put the car into motion.
That is what being brave enough to suck means. TRYING. Putting our foot on the gas pedal and moving forward.
You are just as entitled to success as all the GREATS. With hard work, perseverance, and the willingness to suck at it (AT FIRST), you can do it.