The importance of sucking

Lessons from a bruised leg…

My leg looked liked this a few months ago:

Gross.

No, I didn’t get surgery. No, I was not mauled by a bear.

I went snowboarding for the very first time over New Year’s.

The experience was brutal, needless to say. I fell probably a hundred times. Over and over and over. For those of you who’ve learned to snowboard before, you know what I’m talking about 🙂

Surprisingly, the most painful part of the experience was not the physical aching of my knees or my wrists or my butt.

Rather, the greatest pain I felt was a sinking sensation I had in the pit of my stomach: I was really bad at snowboarding. I wasn’t picking it up “as fast as I thought I was supposed to.” I was frustrated and embarrassed.

I recall thinking to myself, “Maybe snowboarding just isn’t meant for me…

Then, I tried to remember the last time I felt this way. When was the last time I was this bad at something?

I couldn’t remember. I couldn’t remember the last time I was this outside my comfort zone. I hadn’t dared to suck at something — to allow myself to be vulnerable, to look a little “dumb” to my friends — in a very, very long time.

As adults, we gravitate toward the things that we initially have the least resistance to. The new hobbies I’ve tried to pick up as an adult — whether it’s screen printing or yin yoga — are all things I’ve already had a predisposition for. I’ve already been painting and doing yoga for quite a while. It wasn’t a stretch to try those new mediums and related activities.

But with snowboarding, I was in foreign territory. I wasn’t predisposed to snowboarding. And I’d forgotten the importance of doing the things you’re not predisposed to.

When you let yourself be bad at something, you regain your humility. Sucking at something humbles you. As adults, we protect our egos by not allowing ourselves to be bad at things.

You also remember what the point of learning is: to learn. When you learn, you mess around and you mess up. You’re not supposed to be proficient from the get-go.

And, you rediscover that persistence leads to progress. Day 3 of snowboarding was 10X better than Day 1. I got better. In fact, I got back from my second snowboarding trip just yesterday… and I did a few runs without falling once!

I couldn’t be more grateful that I was so bad at snowboarding. It was the reminder I needed to push myself outside my comfort zone more often. To fight the instinct to expect excellence when I learn something new.

Now, I want to seek out more things I’ll suck at.

How about you?


Enjoy this piece? Read more of Claire‘s writing on leadership on the Know Your Team blog. And, check out Know Your Team – software that helps you become a better manager.


Enjoy this post? Get SvN updates delivered straight to your inbox.

No spam, no fluff — just one email every week with the latest posts.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *