Twelve Steps To Sucking Less

12 StepsFace it: people suck.

I suck. You suck. We all suck…but not in the way you’re thinking.

The first time you try anything, there’s a high probability that you’re going to suck. If you think that’s a good excuse for quitting, you might as well stop reading, shut your computer down and go home right now. Because it’s not.

Everybody sucks. You will suck. At some point. At some thing. You will suck. That’s non-negotiable. That’s how you start. From there, the goal isn’t to make you not suck at all (that’s almost impossible). The goal is to make you suck less. Luckily, I’ve compiled a simple 12 step guide to help you do just that. Enjoy.

12 Steps To Sucking Less

  1. Try something (most people never even make it this far)
  2. Realize you suck
  3. Decide you want to get better
  4. Try again, realize you still suck
  5. Practice, suck a little less.
  6. Practice some more, suck a little less.
  7. Contemplate quitting. Don’t.
  8. Become tenacious. Try again. Suck a little less.
  9. Practice some more and watch everyone else go home
  10. Keep f***ing practicing. Suck a little less.
  11. Outlast everyone…become mediocre
  12. Repeat as necessary

The secret to getting good at something isn’t being superhuman. All you have to do is be determined to suck less than most people. Eventually everyone else gives up, and you’ll be mediocre, sucking a little less…every…single…day.

This post inspired by mastery

[Photo by retro_tv_set]

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  1. says

    I find it amazing how few people know about this. Most people think that those that are good at things were born that way. They’ll say things like “Just Natural God Given Talent!” .. No.

  2. says

    Honestly I think this post sucks, and also coz u mention it. But keep up the good work, u defiantly will get there, no pun intended. Truly inspired to work hard and suck as well. Let’s keep getting better at it.


  3. says

    Agreed! My new favorite quote: “Winners are simply willing to do what losers won’t.” Granted, the likelihood is we’ll mostly be somewhere in the midst of the pack rather than right in front of it, but at least you’re not the loser too scared to start running when the gun went off …

      • Dagmar says

        I was amazed to realize how true that is! Being born with a relatively fragile body but more stubbborn than most meant I have actually won at times – just because others stopped trying.

      • Dagmar says

        Thanks so much for this post, Joel!

        I’ve really struggled with this through the years, being (as many of us are) an obsessive perfectionist. I wanted to fell able and competent from the get-go. And gave up when progress was too slow.

        It’s possible to shelve the perfectionism. But it takes time, and you will suck at it. You will have set-backs. And the only thing to do is to keep trying.

        Thanks for the reminder. Now excuse me, I have to go suck at doing capoeira…

          • Dagmar says

            It is! And an infinite source of sucking potential… Trying to get back to it after a ten (10!) year hiatus, which of course means sucking a whole lot more now than I remember doing back then!

  4. says

    I totally agree. When I first started doing bike races, I sucked hard. But the best part of competition is the challenge of sucking less. It took a few years and then I got much less sucky. So to challenge myself more I went to Boulder CO, where the riding was with really great riders. I sucked hard again but with Hard work, Figuring out how to suck less and before you know it you might not be too bad at waht you are doing. All that hard work made me into a pretty decent rider. But with always room to suck less.

    Great Post.

      • Sean Phinney says

        Yes, when you realize you don’t “suck as much” usually turns into—I might be getting good at this. I think that is the most fun and challenging part of athletics–mentally getting to the point where you realize you don’t suck as much. But also realizing that there are always going to be challenges that will be ‘sucky’ but you can move past them.

        So let’s all continue to suck less!

  5. says

    Great post. I remember the sucking phase when I first started running track a long time ago.

    And the sucking phase when I first started Karate, and Tai Chi, and Japanese, and blogging.

    Actually, I remember the sucking phase for about everything difficult I’ve tried to do!

    The key, is that even when you get past the sucking phase, still pursue improvement like you’re there.

    Great post Joel!

  6. says

    I can usually do the first step (try) but sometimes it’s easy to get discouraged and try again. If I liked it then maybe, but if I didn’t like it the first time, it’s going to be tougher to get back on that horse. Usually I will only try it again if I have friends that really enjoyed it and convince me to give it a second chance.

    • says

      That’s the thing Jessica. You don’t always have to keep going at some things. Sometimes you need to quit. Really hating something sometimes is a cue that you shouldn’t be doing it (and other times, it’s a cue that you SHOULD be doing it). Eventually you start to figure it out, but it’s definitely something you learn over time.

  7. says

    11. Outlast everyone… become mediocre… love it! My laugh of the day… and surprisingly inspirational!

    So, what about those dips where you’re going along, sucking marginally less over time, then suddenly you start to suck more again? That backsliding suckage really sucks, sometimes sucking away with it the will to continue. Alas, mere mediocrity can itself be a lofty, nigh unto impossible goal.

    I think this is one of your better posts. Succinct, accurate, practical, and entertaining. You pretty much covered all the bases here.

  8. says

    Joel love this post … Too often in my life I have given up to early due to high expectations … Sometimes we need to accept we suck at something but if we keep working at it we will suck less and less and eventually not at all

    Love your Shiz Joel

  9. Alexis Alvarez says

    Recalls to mind a Samuel Beckett quote:

    Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

  10. says

    Hey, J! I commented on this at Twitter (I’m “Puuikibeach” on there); or rather, I commented on your retweet of the OnStartups article, “Failure isn’t the worst outcome — mediocrity is.”

    Like, dude! In your post here, you’re telling us to get off the couch and TRY, otherwise we’re destined to fail by default (that is, by not trying). You’re also telling us, realistically, that with endless amounts of hard work and frustration, we’ll eventually achieve “mediocre” status.

    And you’re right. Very few of us are going to run two-hour marathons. Most of us are going to be, at best, five or six hour sloggers — or in a word, mediocre.

    I thought you were telling us here that “mediocre” is okay, ‘cuz at least we’re doing SOMETHING, which is more than most people ever do. Then, a few days later, you promote a piece which decries mediocrity, and tells us that failure is better than mere mediocrity.

    In other words… we’re better off staying on the couch.

    Yeah, I know, the Failure-Mediocrity article is somewhat business-specific in what it addresses, and I think I mostly understood the point of it, which is slightly different than the point you’re making in the “Sucking Less” post. Then again… as long as I’m sitting on the couch THINKING about various options, I’m not wasting time working toward mediocrity as a marathon runner or a pushup megamaster. I’m keeping my options open and not wasting time and energy on something at which I’ll never excel. This seems to be the point of the OnStartups article — don’t waste time at something you’ll only be mediocre at, but keep seeking that thing at which you’ll excel.

    In other words, if I understand the OnStartups article, if you can’t be THE BEST (and apparently that means being the best right out of the box), you’re better off failing than you are by becoming merely mediocre.

    Most of your article recommendations, both on the blog and via Twitter, are in keeping with the philosophy you seem to express here on your blog. I was taken aback a bit by the “failure isn’t the worst outcome — mediocrity is” tweet following so closely on the heels of this post, which suggests mediocrity beats failure.

    I actually think your “When Do You Give Up – Part 2” article on essentially the same topic is better, clearer, and more practical — or at least, it resonates more with me personally — than the OnStartups article claiming failure is better than mediocrity.

    And hey, if you hadn’t put in all those years as a “mediocre” basketball player, would you have been physically or mentally ready to even try track & field? Would your buddy have even though of urging you to try if you didn’t have an “athletic” background? If you had given up (failed) and walked off the basketball court in junior high, would you have had the opportunity to earn those track medals? Would failure have been better than mediocrity? Your experience suggests that mediocrity beats failure hands-down!

    And in the “real world,” at least mediocrity pays the bills better than failure. Maybe failure is a viable option for trust-fund babies who can use the tax write-offs or smooth-talking operators playing with “other people’s money,” but the rest of us have rent to pay.

    Okay, so… which is better — fail (and hey, bonus! I don’t even have to get off the sofa to do that!), or sweat and suffer to achieve mediocrity?

    I’m just trying to justify giving up on the pushups thing, if you really wanna know…. 😉

  11. says

    I loved this list, and I hate lists. It reminds me of a quote from one of the great thinkers of the 20th century.

    “Hey Willie, I have always believed you should find out what you don’t do well, then…Don’t Do It! Ha!”
    -Gordon Shumway (ALF)

  12. says

    Hey Joel,
    Awesome post. I feel that I’m at step 7 right now. This was the second wind I needed.

    It helps to know that it’s all about sucking less and not even reaching “success”. Just sucking less everyday.

    I’ll keep that in mind.


  1. […] Twelve Steps To Sucking Less “Everybody sucks. You will suck. At some point. At some thing. You will suck. That’s non-negotiable. That’s how you start. From there, the goal isn’t to make you not suck at all (that’s almost impossible). The goal is to make you suck less.” ~Joel Runyon at Blog of Impossible Things […]

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