My 2013 Challenge to You: Let Yourself Suck

The Mayans were wrong and the world didn’t end, so if you are presently New-Year’s-Resolution-less, please go find one pronto. Since we scored the cosmic Bonus Ball and get another 365 earthly rotations, I kinda feel like it’s incumbent upon us to find the chutzpah to make 2013 resolutions that are completely non-wussy. In fact, I challenge you to pick something big enough that you have to initially give yourself permission to totally suck at it.

You heard me right: in 2013 I really-truly hope that you completely-totally-wholly suck at whatever you resolve to do—and I hope you suck at it for a good long time. But here’s the clincher: you’ve gotta suck with an intent to not suck. Going around sucking for sucking’s sake, now that would really suck. But sucking with the intent to not suck, this is where the good stuff can happen.

Daughter #1 taught me most of what I know about sucking with intent to not suck when she was just an itsy-bitsy thang making a hopelessly tangled mess out of her shoelaces. After 20 or so exhausting minutes of watching her struggle and tie knots where no knot should ever be, I’d invariably grab the scissors and attempt an intervention. As soon as she saw me coming she’d shriek: “GO AWAY! I can do it—ALL BY MY LITTLE OLD SELF!”

The funny thing was, she really-truly couldn’t…she had no clue what she was doing, at least not at first. But clearly she was onto something, and somewhere around Attempt #9,894, her skill caught up with her spirit.

Most of us lose the sucking skill as we get older. Instead of trying to do something completely new and impossible ALL BY OUR LITTLE OLD SELVES, we stick to the tried and true. It feels good to be good at something, so we keep doing that.

Society encourages this specialization. Heck, my own mother has watched me emerge from the swim leg looking more drowned rat than competent triathlete and suggested, “how about you find a nice bike race to enter instead?”

I get the rationale; it allegedly takes 10,000 hours of practice to become great at any given task (this is according to some book my coach made me read this year; in keeping with this blog’s theme, I forget which book—due to my sucky memory.) So, like, who has a spare 10,000 hours just lying around, waiting to be spent?

Find the time—you’ll be glad you did. It’s an investment that pays dividends way beyond the budding competence you’ll experience around Hour #9,894, because sometimes life throws stuff at us and doesn’t give us the luxury of 10,000 hours of practice. We have to handle this stuff rightthisveryminute, and it is utterly impossible stuff, as utterly impossible as, say, selecting a neurosurgeon for your very own child. You will truly suck at catching this curve ball and yet it will be yours and yours alone to catch.

If you’ve allowed yourself to “suck with intent” before, you’ve got a better shot at making it through these suckiest of situations with your sanity semi-intact. That’s my hypothesis and I’m stickin’ to it.

Sometimes the task at hand is so freaking big that gobs of humanity must simultaneously sign up to suck, and that’s exactly what happens in the movie Lincoln, which I saw last week. I promise I won’t ruin the story in the event you’ve yet to see it (well, unless you don’t know whether the 13th Amendment passed, abolishing slavery. If you don’t know that, consider me a movie-wrecker.) There’s a poignant scene in which certain opponents of slavery say they aren’t going to vote for the 13th Amendment because they think the country would totally suck at figuring out what to do with four million newly freed former slaves. (OK, “suck” is my word—not theirs.) They had a point; completely changing a way of life for an entire country is pretty big stuff. The movie ends where the sucking begins—I bet Reconstruction really sucked at times, but we are all better off for it.

On a smaller-than-Reconstruction scale, I will give myself lots of opportunities to suck in 2013. If you keep reading my rants in the new year you’re bound to hear about some of them, including the aforementioned swim leg. Yes, I’ve been “sucking with intent to not suck” on that for three full seasons now. (“They” say the third is the charm, but I’m thinking “they” are as wrong as the Mayans and it’ll be the fourth for me.) On the work front, I am actively completely sucking at using Twitter (please feel free to follow @cisco_cj…or is it @cj_cisco? See? I even suck at remembering my “handle,” if it is even called a “handle.”)

So, that’s all I’ve got. I do hope you go have a fantastically sucky new year. Let your skill catch up with your spirit. I can’t wait to hear what you’re accomplishing ALL BY YOUR LITTLE OLD SELF!

– cj


About garmin_girl

I'm a 40-something single mother of three--two great human girls and one four-legged Dalmatian banshee--who is hellbent on swimming, biking and running straight through my midlife crisis. Care to tag along? Crazy loves company! ;)
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3 Responses to My 2013 Challenge to You: Let Yourself Suck

  1. Steve cannon says:

    Happy New Year CJ, you suck but we all do.

  2. Kathy Sumpter says:

    Happy New Year, Christine! I think the book is Malcom Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” (or “Outliers”, see I can’t remember either). I totally agree with you about the “sucking” part. Last spring I took at ceramics class at MxCC where I teach. When I started I sucked but I kept at it and by mid-semester I was amazed at my progress. I took another class this past fall and had my first pottery show at the college in November. I also took a class at Wesleyan Potters and am taking my 3rd class at MxCC this January. You’re right about the number of hours it takes to be really good at something…just put your head down and keep on going!

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