Here’s the sad truth that applies to 95% of you.
That thing you want to do, the path you want to go on, the business you want to start, the new career you want to pursue?
Not only won’t you do it now.
But, odds are, you’ll never do it.
Because you don’t have any confidence. You don’t think you’ll pull it off. All of your recorded history shows you not doing ‘the thing’, staying inside your comfort zone, and incessantly mulling yet never pulling the trigger.
If only the fact you’re going to die with plenty o’ potential on the table wasn’t enough, you’ll have to deal with even more pain.
You’ll wonder what could’ve been. For the most part, you’ll be able to shove your dreams down into the recesses of the mind, but every once in a while those dead dreams will whisper in your ear and beg you to chase them.
And this cycle will repeat for the rest of your life.
Let this quote sink in:
“I once heard the definition of hell: On your last day on earth, the person you became will meet the person you could have become.” — Anonymous
This will be you in the waning moments of your life. In hell, wondering what you did with your life, why you held back, why you couldn’t have just mustered up some courage.
Is this fate avoidable? Yes.
Is it possible? Not only is it possible, but you, yes you specifically, can pull it off.
See, I know one thing about you.
Since you’re reading this, you’re at least hopeful. At least willing to think about trying at all. That’s a start.
Of course, nothing will happen until you accept this upfront and do something about it.
You Suck, Like, You Really Really Suck
Aspiring writers send me their writing quite often. All of it sucks.
It’s supposed to, though. Mine did.
For whatever reason, people just don’t like sucking at stuff. Maybe (probably) it’s because your ego wants to protect you. Maybe it’s because you’re lazy and impatient. Or maybe it’s because of this truth…
When you suck, you can feel the distance between where you are and where you want to be. It’s palpable, frustrating, nerve-wracking — all the above. It’s not so much that you don’t think it’s possible to get there but it just seems to insanely far away that trying doesn’t make sense to you.
It doesn’t help that you’ve spent decades in a system that discourages growth through failure. School conditions you to think in terms of right or wrong. You’re stacked against your peers, given grades a.k.a labels of your identity, and get scolded for ‘failing.’
When you take a test and get the wrong answer, the teacher doesn’t write a little note saying “ah…this isn’t quite the answer, but try again using x y and z techniques […]” No, you get the letter big fat letter x crossed over your shitty wrong answer in red marker — your answer is permanently wrong and you won’t be taught how to correct it. How encouraging.
So after people go through this ringer from the ages of 5–22, they’re done wanting to learn. They’ve jumped through the hoops, got their piece of paper, and now want to coast through life without ever being challenged again.
But after some time passes, many want out. But the only way out…comes through sucking.
I don’t have a motivational pep talk to give you here. If you want to break out of the system, you’ll need to learn new skills. And in the beginning, you will undoubtedly suck — Hoover vacuum suck. And you’ll have to embrace it.
See, no amount of self-help content can cause action. Only you can do that. That little gap between thought and action is yours and yours to deal with alone. But…after time, you’ll find some great things on the other side.
And, you’ll learn some of these important lessons along the way.
Nobody Cares About Your Failures
Making money through an early lucky trade is the worst way to win. The bad habits that it reinforces will lead to a lifetime of losses. — Naval Ravikant
I’ll use writing to illustrate this again, but this thinking applies to any skill.
There’s a certain type of writer who will almost always fail. They’re the ones who want to write something amazing out of the gate and gain instant popularity.
But, for every Kristen Roupenian, there are thousands of writers who didn’t succeed right away. And also bazillions of writers who got so caught up in the perfectionist trap that they never did anything.
Succeeding right away isn’t even something you want because you won’t earn the hard lessons of failure.
Contrast Roupenian with one of my favorite writers, James Altucher.
His 17th book, Choose Yourself, is a cult classic, having sold over a million copies. And it’s self-published!
If you visit his Amazon book page, you’ll see some of his other very shitty books. The covers don’t even look good.
But when people go to the Amazon page for Choose Yourself and see 1,946 reviews, do they go search through his back catalog to make sure his previous books were good before they decide to buy? No.
People don’t care about your struggle. They only want to deal with finished products, winners. On the one hand, it’s annoying because some people will think you’re lucky even though you’ve worked really hard. But on the other hand, your “failures,” don’t count against you.
Every person who experiences you as the finished product only knows you as the cool, awesome, super-skillful version of yourself.
People will look in awe at you. People ask me all the time — “How did you learn how to write so well and so prolifically?”
I answer “Years of relentless practice.”
They want a magic trick that doesn’t exist. Nope, pure pain baby.
Only you will know how painful it was to get where you are today. You’ll also realize how much you loved it all.
How to Reframe Your Relationship With Practice
If you do make it to the “other side,” you’ll realize all of these lessons retrospectively. If, however, you can somehow learn and accept them upfront, you’ll be miles ahead of most people when they’re starting.
These lessons are all about re-framing the way you think. Framing is an important concept. Almost nothing has an objective, face-value. Almost everything has different contexts, frames, you can use that will change your whole perspective.
Here are some re-frames I learned through first sucking, practicing, then getting good:
- Frustration = growth — When the words don’t come out, you fumble the strings on the guitar, or your sales call goes horribly south, realize that frustration is the way through to growth. Getting through the frustration point builds this bedrock to your being that enables you to continue growing for the rest of your life.
- Volume = experience — I make my students practice headlines. It’s not the headlines themselves that trip them up. They don’t want to write shitty headlines. When you do something poorly, you don’t feel like it “counts.” But the truth is the exact opposite. Even today, for every 10 headlines I write, 9 are terrible. But the one that survives is usually great. You’re never done putting yourself through your paces. Ever. The more volume, the better.
- Failure = truth — You need failure because it gives you feedback on what you shouldn’t do. Failure brings you closer. Also, failure rids you of the imaginary “potential you.” See, people will avoid actually doing ‘the thing’ and permanently fall in love with the image of who they could be. They don’t want to face reality. But there’s no way to get what you want without facing it. Each time you do, you get closer to your goal — addition by subtraction.
I’m going to remove another crutch.
Often, people ask me how long it will take them to get good. They use this because they’re looking for an out. But a handful of people genuinely want to know.
So, how long does it take to get good at a new skill?
It’s not a length of time, per se.
Let me explain.
The Rule of 100
Your first 100 blog posts will mostly suck.
Your first 100 podcasts will mostly suck too.
Your first 100 talks will not be perfect.
Your first 100 videos will be nightmares. — Cammi Pham
I’ve seen this rule used in the creative community quite often. Marketing expert Josh Spector wrote a post called Only Do it if You’re Willing to do it 100 Times. Mark Manson, blogger extraordinaire and uber best selling author says you need to write 100 blog posts just to know if you want to write at all, let alone find your voice. In sales, you make 100 calls to get 10 responses to get 3 meetings to get 1 sale.
I used that last sentence to get this point across.
You don’t have to be successful often to become successful in general. You can write 100 shitty songs, and if song number 101 goes viral, you have a path to future success. Same with writing, or shooting videos, or doing anything that requires a repeated process.
You’ll actually be pretty decent your 95th, 96th, 97th, 98th, 99th, and 100th time. You’ll be right on track to hit a creative growth spurt. And once you hit it, you’ll probably never turn back. Eventually, something will pop.
There is also the possibility that you’re not cut out for the path ahead. This does happen. Seth Godin talks about this in The Dip. That’s what the whole book is about actually. Try hard, trash about, then see if your path is worth pursuing. It might not be, but at least you’ll know.
If you do take your 100 lashes with success, you’ll experience these better parts of the skill acquisition arc.
Discharge your duties faithfully and well. Step by step you get ahead, but not necessarily in fast spurts. But you build discipline by preparing for fast spurts… Slug it out one inch at a time, day by day, at the end of the day — if you live long enough — most people get what they deserve. — Charlie Munger
At a certain point, your skills will jump exponentially. So will your results. The amount of people who viewed my writing this year alone is more than all 3–4 previous years combined. I can write a good blog post, quickly, with nothing more than a bar-napkin-like outline and a few minor passes for edits. I can make the words my bitch instead of the other way around. Essentially I can spit out pretty polished prose at will.
Of course, it wasn’t always like this. I used…to…suck. I read my old blog posts sometimes just to remember. Trash. Terrible. But, the terrible 100 and beyond got me where I wanted to be. I appreciate those posts more than I do recent ones. Those created the bedrock.
This Feels Damn Good
At first, nothing comes to you easily at all. Everything is difficult. You learn that not only are there major skills you need to learn but little micro-skills with those skills. Ugh…I still remember putting together landing pages, WordPress blogs, little e-mail funnels, etc.
Now, when I do those activities, I do them unconsciously. I don’t have to think.
When you make ‘the leap’ you’ll graduate to the point where your skills will become second nature. One, this is awesome because you have the skills. Two, once you acquire skills at a second-nature level, you won’t be as daunted by learning new skills.
Why? Because you know you’ll eventually absorb these new skills into your black-hole-Bermuda-triangle-like awesomeness. Once you gain these skills, they’re your prisoners forever.
Then, you’ll do this.
If you want to get on some next-level greatness, you’ll simply start learning brand new skills you know nothing about, over and over again, until you die.
That’s what I plan on doing at least. I have an acquired taste for pain now. I want to try new things and experience the pain all over again. And, of course, the pain still sucks. The sucking still sucks.
But a true master loves losing. Loves becoming a beginner again. Loves the process. Pain and process create strength.
You want to be strong.
Society extolls the virtues of weakness and helplessness. It’s B.S.
You want to learn how strong you are. You want pain.
Show me a body with no scars and you’ve shown me someone who’s never lived — confined to a bubble, a hell worse than the treacherous land outside the gates of the castle built by excuses.
You think you suck?
Good. Your first lesson has just begun.
Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You. Want a free copy of my first book? Get it here.