Today’s One Thing: Doing something new.
That One Thing, Better: Being OK at sucking.
When we consider trying something new, we often face two likely outcomes:
1. Try it, and suck.
2. Don’t try it, for fear of sucking.
But I want to offer a third option, which is this: Try it, suck, and then take that as confirmation that you’re doing things right.
That’s something I learned from Ryan Reynolds, who I interviewed a few years ago for this story in Entrepreneur.
Ryan was once just an actor, but then launched an award-winning advertising agency and took ownership in some interesting businesses. He had no idea what he was doing at first.
Then, he told me, he realized something important:
“You can’t be good at something unless you’re willing to be bad.”
As soon as he said that, I thought: I am going to repeat that for years. Because Ryan is offering an important pathway through the darkness.
When we try something new, we’re often bad at it. Embarrassingly, achingly bad. We look around at people who are good and think: Well, I guess I’ll never be like them. Then we quit. We give up on the new thing. We teach ourselves to cling tightly to old things, for fear of not mastering whatever’s next.
Want to see that in action? Just this week, a young professional DM’d me asking for advice. She is 27, enjoys her work, but is also curious about other opportunities. And yet, she wrote me…
“It’s been a trying time because I keep wanting to change what I do and then resort back to “I love what I do and can’t imagine being good at anything else.”
If you cannot imagine being good at anything else, then I guarantee you will never be good at anything else.
That’s why we all must listen to Ryan Reynolds. He is saying: Go try it. You will be bad. That’s OK! Because you know what creates success? It isn’t being good at something immediately, because that’s impossible.
Instead, the difference-maker is this: Successful people are the ones willing to tolerate being bad long enough to get to good.
Not everyone can do that. Most don’t try. Of the ones that do, most quit early.
So how can you put this into practice? After all, it’s one thing to say, “You must be willing to be bad!” It’s quite another to actually be bad and keep going anyway.
Well, here’s what I do: Whenever I’m trying something new, I like to tell myself this:
“I can’t wait to do this the second time.”
I came up with that line at a very anxious moment.
It was 2015. I was about to give my first-ever keynote talk in Scottsdale, Arizona. I’d practiced and practiced, but I had no idea if anyone would like what I said. Was it good? Insightful? Tolerable? Then the moment of truth came: I was standing on the side of the stage, listening to the emcee introduce me, and my heart was pounding, and I was looking out at the audience, and I needed some way to get myself on this stage. Some way to gather my courage.
Then I thought to myself: I can’t wait to do this the second time.
I instantly felt calmer. The very logic of it felt soothing. We often feel like our first time must be good — that it is a defining event. But it is not. It is simply the pathway to the second time, which will be better than the first. In thinking this way, I had lowered the bar. I had given this experience purpose, regardless of outcome. I had said to myself: “You don’t know how to do this, but you’re about to. Twenty minutes from now, you will know so much more than you do now.”
All I had to do was… do it. For the purpose of doing it again.
And so I did. Here’s a photo of me at that moment, trying not to appear nervous as hell, and wearing a dress shirt and suit jacket because I thought I had to, even though that stuff makes me deeply uncomfortable.
Today, eight years later, I never wear a suit. I generally speak in a t-shirt or a hoodie. I am comfortable and fun and speaking brings me incredible joy, as well as nice additional income. Why? How? Because I was willing to tolerate being bad for long enough to get to good.
Because I got to the second time, and kept going.
And that’s how to do one thing better!
P.S. Do you have a friend or colleague who needs a nudge to try something new? Please forward this to them!