The Gentle Art of Trying Something & Sucking at It

By Leo Babauta

I was out for a run this morning when I contemplated how some people hate running, while I love it. Then I remembered: I didn’t love it when I started, because I sucked at it.

Running, like anything, sucks when you first start. And then it becomes better, once you get decent at it.

The question then becomes: how do you get over sucking at something you’re trying to learn, so you can get good at it?

The answer is to become curious about the suck. “Embrace the suck” is a term often used in the military, and there’s some truth to it – if you open your arms and welcome sucking at something, find curiosity about it, move closer to this feeling of sucking … you can survive, and learn a lot.

Here’s what you might try:

As you begin to learn something, notice when you feel frustrated with sucking. It might be really difficult, confusing, full of failure. You’re out of your comfort zone, and you want to go back into it.

Now turn to this feeling of frustration, or whatever difficult feeling you’re having: confusion, impatience, boredom, feeling bad about yourself, wanting to quit.

Turn to the feeling, and instead of trying to stop it or avoid it … try sitting with it (or running with it). Just be there with it. Let it be in you, give it space.

Now turn your curiosity toward this feeling: what is it like? Where is it located in your body? What is the sensation of this feeling? Don’t judge it, but instead tell yourself you don’t know much about it, and try to find out more. Be open to whatever it feels like, instead of thinking you already know.

Just watch this feeling, over and over, and try to become intimate with it.

There is a lot to learn in this process. And you’ll suck at it too. That’s OK.

It’s only when we can be OK with the suck, and stay with it, that we can make any progress. And eventually we’ll get good at whatever we suck at, and we’ll love being good at it.

And then (this is a secret), you’ll realize that being good at this thing is just another comfort zone. You’ll want to push out of that, when you get there, and find a new way to suck. But you can worry about that later.