Why you must be ok with sucking

d-minusOur schools make lousy places for risk-taking creatives. All through our formative years, we’re pushed to get good grades, get all the answers right. Uh oh, you missed an answer – RED MARK FOR YOU. HOW DARE YOU NOT DO EVERYTHING PERFECTLY.

Seriously, we are conditioned since childhood to strive for the A+, to seek the perfect score and the perfect season.

“Failure is not an option,” intone our coaches, teachers, and parents.

Well, they’re all WRONG.

Not only is failure a very real option at any point, the achievement of success dictates failure to get there. It’s required, and it’s required repeatedly.

As toddlers, how many times did we fall on our diaper-clad butts in the process of learning how to walk? Our parents didn’t yell at us for repeatedly “failing to walk” when we were learning how to do it in the first place.

Yet somehow we grow up, brainwashed into a place where we think that we’re supposed to take on a new challenge and automatically be amazing at it, just like a toddler who attempts walking for the very first time and instantly wins a medal in pole vaulting.

But then we turn on a baseball game, where hitting the ball 4 times out of 10 is considered virtually impossible. It’s fine, it’s normal for a baseball player to repeatedly FAIL to hit the ball. In fact, if said baseball player SUCKS by missing the ball only 7 out of 10 times, that player is applauded for being an amazing hitter.

In the creative world, we’re often tempted to just “get it done” or “stick with what we know.” We’re so conditioned to not risk failing… that we constantly play it safe. And we waddle along in our little comfort zone, playing to not lose.

The more highly successful people I learn about and associate with, the more often I hear the same thing: in order to grow in virtually any area of life, you have to be prepared to fail repeatedly. To do things and SUCK at them. And then to continue both succeeding and failing… FOREVER.

Virgin_ColaThe business owner who ultimately finds wild success must get there by building multiple businesses that die horrible deaths. (Everyone’s heard of Richard Branson’s Virgin Airlines and Virgin Mobile – have you ever enjoyed a bottle of Virgin Cola? Nope, me either.)

To loosely paraphrase Steven Pressfield: all screenwriters have a certain amount of scripts that will suck, and it’s best to write them as soon as possible to get them out of your system. Acknowledge that they suck. Be bummed about that for a little bit… but for the love of God, keep writing more scripts!

And the video editor who ends up with a vast array of techniques and approaches to perfectly achieve the desired effect for any project to which she puts her hand will always have a laundry list of other ideas that just didn’t work. At all. As in, “what were you thinking?!” kind of ideas.

failure-quote-michael-jordanSo my challenge to you: be open to failing more. Because the more you fail, the more likely you are to be succeeding as well. The more likely you are to throw elements up against the wall and be surprised by, “wow, that works really well.”

And be ok with still being told to go back to the drawing board once in a while – it means you’re not quite hitting the mark yet, and that can often take your projects to places you never expected. Sometimes bad, but sometimes really, really good places.

My favorite quote on this idea comes from Pablo Picasso: “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.” And I’d add: “And be ok with not achieving perfection every single time, because nobody does. Ever.”

If you like the idea of expanding your knowledge of the rules of powerfully effective editing, check this out.

If you like the idea of hanging out with people who love to challenge their own creative boundaries, then go here.

In the meantime, one more thought: when experiencing growth, it usually means we’re stepping outside of our comfort zone, what feels normal.

comfort-zoneTherefore, the thing we are most likely to feel when are experiencing growth is… discomfort. We feel uneasy, it’s not all cut-and-dried like things usually feel. Frankly, it’s just not fun.

Lean into that. Get more of that intentional discomfort in your life, and you will be astounded at the results that emerge.

I’m getting better at it, and I’d love for you to be in the same place.

Leave a Reply