Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Being New and Sucking At It

When I went through coach training 6 years ago, one of the first things we were taught was that we would never succeed if we couldn't make peace with sucking. In order to be good, we had to first embrace being bad. As a new coach, this was the last thing I wanted to do.

But the truth is that making peace with stumbling is what can help you soldier on.

If you can't be comfortable with the suck factor, you'll quit—or worse, just drive yourself crazy amidst the discomfort. This reminder ended up serving me endlessly as I cut my chops as a new coach, but as time passed and I hunkered into familiar roles where I excelled, its importance drifted out of my mind.

At the beginning of August, I started a new freelance writing job for a big tech company and the feeling of being new threw me so off balance you'd have thought I was wearing banana peel boots. I was used to being an expert—the go-to girl for smart answers. That's how I'd been operating for years at my previous job and I was so comfortable in that role.

I had forgotten how to be the new guy. 

I had forgotten how to be ok with sucking. How to treat myself—and my new job—with grace and understanding that this state of discombobulation was only temporary. Instead, my instinct was to think, "Oh man, this is so hard. It's not really fun either. It might just be a terrible fit for me!"

But that wasn't the truth. I was working with old friends, writing interesting stuff that really wasn't so hard, being paid nicely, and enjoying the flexibility to dash out to my garden in the middle of the day.

What was hard was being new. What was not fun was being new.

Until I reminded myself (with the help of my life guru ex-boss who is a total rockstar) that everything I was feeling was normal for a newbie, I felt stuck and really uncertain about my future in the new gig. But I'm learning to walk and I'm going to get better at it. Soon I'll be running and at some point I may even be back to being an expert.

Imagine if babies quit when new things felt hard or not so fun. The first time they face-planted when testing out their feet, they'd be like "Well I guess it's back to crawling for me!" How many adults would spend their time on hands and knees just because it felt more comfortable than learning how to move upright?

It all reminds me of a client I had who kept bouncing from one job to the next. The client claimed that everything was the wrong fit, but now I have to wonder if it was just the feeling of newness that felt wrong. Maybe, all along, the real key to finding the right fit was making peace with stumbling for a while.

There's power in learning to suck at something. 

And I'm so grateful I've had to relearn that firsthand.


  1. Preach! The great Boboo Smith told Ry that instead of constantly thinking about where your job is taking you, you should keep your head down and work and then every 6 months pop your head up and see where you are and where you’re headed. That advice helped me a lot in my first couple years of my current company, when it felt like nothing was happening and nothing was going my way! There is no replacement for time.

  2. I'm terribly guilty of wanting to be good at whatever I try - possibly a result of being very good at a handful of things...and rather awful at others. Finding peace with this has taken a lifetime but as a dear friend once angrily accused, "How dare you not give the same grace to yourself as you give to everyone else!" Here's to sucking and getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Thanks for the reminder Melissa!