You’re Going to Suck

  • April 24, 2012 by Corbett Barr
  • 52 Comments

Every creative person, every entrepreneur and everyone who tries something new needs to realize and accept this.

Your work is going to suck in the beginning.

And it’s going to hurt, because you’ll know deep down that you’re capable of doing much better.

This is the main thing that stands between you and your potential.

Failure isn’t fun, but it’s an absolute requirement to growth. In order to grow and become what we’re capable of, we have to fail over and over until we learn and become skillful.

You have to look at making mistakes not as something to be ashamed of, but as a growth opportunity. The sooner you get over the fear of making mistakes, the faster you can grow.

So put aside the ego and start making mistakes.

Invite feedback, and don’t take it personally. Look at your work as an outsider. Use the feedback to make it better, day by day, until it’s as good as you knew you were capable of.

The next time you see someone doing something poorly, try not to feel a sense of superiority. Maybe that person has come to terms with the need to fail in order to grow. Instead, try congratulating her on trying, and on not being afraid.

What’s something you’ve been too afraid of failure to try lately? Admit it in the comments below, then get out there and start trying.

Written by . Corbett is cofounder of Fizzle, a place for creative entrepreneurs, writers, makers, coders and artists, all working to support themselves doing what they love independently on the Internet. Follow Corbett on on Twitter.


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Vic Magary April 24, 2012 at 6:07 am

Well said, Corbett! Pain and failure and sucking are the unavoidable byproducts of aspiration plus action – at least on the front end. We get better overtime as long as we make adjustments based on feedback like you suggest.

I’ve been afraid of getting back out there as a lawyer. I recently returned to my hometown in Ohio to open a law practice and I’m finding myself scared shitless to accept that first client. I haven’t practiced law in over 5 years and I’ve been tepid in getting back out there. But I started taking some action this week. . . I met with the local municipal judge yesterday and have a meeting with an established lawyer in town this afternoon. With both of them I am laying my cards on the table – telling them I haven’t practiced for a while and am seeking their guidance and feedback. Seeking mentors is helping me overcome my fear.

Gregory Ciotti May 6, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I agree 100% with your last line.

More than any other “You Can Do This!” inspirational nonsense that I’ve heard, it’s having a mentor that helps the most, especially when they are being blunt about their criticism.

Self-doubt (at least to me) is far more of a hurdle than outside criticism.

Sergio Felix April 24, 2012 at 6:42 am

Creating a product that sucks.

That’s exactly my #1 fear right now.

I haven’t even been able to write a report as a lead magnet for my site because I think people are going to expect a lot from me.

But I know I just need to do it and stop thinking about it the only problem is that I just keep finding excuses to not do it.

So I guess I’ll just do that and get ready for what happens next, thanks for the reminder Corbett.

Sergio

Dan Sumner April 26, 2012 at 5:43 am

Just do it Sergio. I know you can do it!

Dan

Daniel April 24, 2012 at 6:51 am

After I quit my job in online marketing last year all I wanted to do is going to travel around SE-Asia for a while (which I did) and afterwards start my own small (freedom) business.

But when I came back from my travels I was scared that I wouldn’t work out, that I have no clue what I’m doing and that it’s maybe the safest to get a “real” job first and then maybe one day, some day, in x years start my own business. To realize that I was scared to pursue, what I’ve dreamt of doing for a while now struck me real hard.

Finally, I’ve come to my senses and figured out that I don’t really have anything to fear, and that this fear I’m having right now will not be important anymore in a year from now, no matter what happens.

Kimberly Houston April 24, 2012 at 7:04 am

“Start making mistakes” is great advice, because if you’re not making mistakes, that means you’re not putting anything out there in the world!

I recently came across a great quote in a Fast Company article: “Mistakes are simply data.” If you look at it that way, it removes the “failure” label, which can really hamstring a person when they’re just starting out.

I used to live by the (self-created) rule, “I can’t put anything out there until it’s perfect,” but now I live by the rule, “Just take action, and course-correct from there!” I can tell you that operating by the second principle is much more fast-paced, fun, and results-producing than living by the first! : )

Greg Kogan April 24, 2012 at 7:12 am

I read a great analogy somewhere: “The first pancake always sucks.”

No matter how many times you’ve made pancakes in the past, the first one of a batch *always* sucks. But they get better, and most of the batch ends up looking quite nice.

And so it is in any creative field. Your first effort will almost always suck. Once you accept that, you will be able to plow through it and improve.

Kristyn April 24, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Love the pancake reference!

Benny April 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

That’s a great analogy! It’s true though. The first time my wife made banana bread, it sucked! I didn’t say it sucked, but had to be polite and say it wasn’t that good.

But she kept making it and it got better and better. Now it’s delicious and I could eat the whole thing in a couple days.

JamesW April 24, 2012 at 7:13 am

I was afraid that I will not manage to get traffic to my blog, and here I’m, trying and hopefully will succeed.
Failure is something that just makes me stronger and more smarter,
thanks for sharing the post.

Marlon Stevenson April 24, 2012 at 7:30 am

Back-end development.

I have a great idea for a website and my strength is in marketing and somewhat design. I keep imagining that some technically minded individual will swoop in and save me, but the sad reality is that if I want to create the product, I’m going to have to learn some back-end development.

Here goes nothing. Time to suck.

Jim Christensen April 24, 2012 at 7:55 am

I can’t believe that you just wrote this post for me! I’m at that point where everything old is falling away and the new is about to rush in. And I’m a beginner at everything I’m starting new.

A good friend coached me this morning, “Just do the next right thing.”

Brian April 24, 2012 at 7:58 am

Great and timely article Corett.

I think this really all boils down to FEAR and I just wrote about this myself this morning on my personal development blog.

Funny how as I’ve become older, I’m less afraid of making mistakes, but fear can still hold me back at times.

Time to un-learn, re-wire and empty our cups.

Joe Barlow April 24, 2012 at 8:52 am

Corbett,

I’m currently writing my first novel. Although I’ve written professionally in the non-fiction world for over a decade, the art of writing fiction is a new one for me, although this is where my true passion has lain for years. I’ve finally worked up the courage to pursue it.

Yesterday I broke page 200 on the book, and I’m nearing the end of the first draft. And you know what? I’m terrified. In a good way, but still, absolutely terrified.

This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me. First novels are rough, even at the best of times. But I’ll get through it. And even if the first novel doesn’t set the world on fire, the second one will be better. :)

Regards,
Joe

Joseph Ratliff April 24, 2012 at 9:17 am

People just have to realize that “sucking” is part of the creative process, and it’s unavoidable.

So “suck” and move on.

Great post Corbett.

Elizabeth Miller April 24, 2012 at 9:49 am

Great advice! I think it’s hard for everyone to accept the fact that we can’t be 100 percent perfect. We suck sometimes. I know being a young woman just starting out that I am afraid to suck. I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of career professionals. But sometimes that happens, regardless of if you’ve been working 1 year or 10 years.

Mistakes are a part of human nature and it’s how we learn and grow. Just gotta bite the bullet and go for it!

Dickie White April 24, 2012 at 10:27 am

Failing is a necessary part of succeeding. I fail all the time. All it does, much like it did for Thomas Edison, is show me another way not to do something. Picking yourself up after failing and learning from the experience to make yourself better is what leads to big successes. So don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid that you won’t get back up.

Robert Redus April 24, 2012 at 11:09 am

Corbett,

Wonderfully insightful;

I am in the middle of a giant, “suckfest”, right now planning a predictably, unpredictable month long trip in May to the west coast to push myself as the artist I’ve been working relentlessly on for the past decade plus. And the fear is as delicious as it is intimidating. The, “in flux”, position I’m in is clearly the fear of making mistakes and as you said, “The sooner you get over the fear of making mistakes, the faster you can grow.”

I’m eager to get that toe into the water. Pronto!

Thank you for a great topic.,
all the best

Andy April 24, 2012 at 11:17 am

Les Claypool used to start Primus shows by stepping up to the mic and saying “We’re Primus, and we suck” before launching full force into some of the most far-out and technically amazing music most of their audience had ever heard.

Back when I was a young bass player, I worked very hard so I could someday suck like Les.

Since then, I’ve become very good at maybe three things and mediocre at a dozen or so different things. But I had to suck at all of them first, and I continue to suck at many other things. But that’s cool, because the suck is a necessary step.

Paul April 24, 2012 at 11:21 am

Funny, I tweeted this yesterday: Whomever makes the most mistakes (and learns from them) wins.

I hadn’t produced a downloadable product in over 4 years of this internet thing. So last month, I set a date to complete my first ebook on April 22 – Earth Day. I decided to tell others to ensure I kept my promise to myself.

Well, it was the final week leading up to my deadline, and I’ve been toying around with the design, typography, and everything BUT writing, even though I wrote a little.

April 19, I re-read what I had written down, and I hated it. 3 days to go, and now I’ve got no choice. Write, or lose some integrity come Sunday.

I wrote and wrote, and edited while I could, for 3 days straight. Launch was 12 noon Sunday, and I used every second.

Does it suck? Yup. Was this the best I could do? Nope.

I had all these elaborate ideas that I would sell the book, free me from my job, and on and on. But as we all know, sucking is the first step.

The book is called Butt Naked Abundance and it’s FREE to download cause it sucks so bad.

But once I fix it up, and once someone tells me it’s impacted them in some way, then I’ll feel better about charging for it.

So yeah, I get the “suck” rule. Set deadlines, suck, learn and improve.

Dan Boyle April 24, 2012 at 11:37 am

Everything sucks and you have to correct it’s path overtime. When you drive your car, you’re constantly correcting it’s path. That’s just one example.

I think the hardest part is taking the criticism. Especially on the Internet. People can be down right nasty when they hide behind their computer. But you have to keep pushing and not let a digital person take you down.

That aside…

Corbett. I am a little freaked out right now as I am launching my blog which I’m learning about through your course. It’s also the first time I’ll be writing on my own.

Even though I have other successful Internet businesses, this is something new to me and I don’t want to fail.

Paul Jun April 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I’ve been working on my eBook relentlessly for about two months now, and I came to a point where I needed to hear some feedback on the message and contents.

In short, all the feedback that I received from all different walks of life, pointed to me in a direction that I completely didn’t see coming: starting over.

It’s not that the idea of the book sucked — it was the delivery.

Instead of being disheartened about it and beating myself up, I chose to view it as a scar and a simple mishap that every writer and creative has to face multiple times in their life.

So yeah. Shit will suck at times. But its important to move on, learn from it, and build something that much more remarkable.

Nikki April 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm

Thanks Corbett!

This is exactly where I’m at. I’m writing launch content for my new blog and at every step have to remind myself that I can’t hold out for perfection before taking the next action. Otherwise, I get stuck because I feel like what I’m producing isn’t good enough.

My thinking is that I have to put something out there in order to have something to tweak, right? Won’t know what works unless I start trying things. And, forgetting perfection makes the process of writing fun again, which is kind of the whole point. :)

So thanks for giving us all permission to be a little less than perfect, especially at the beginning!

Kathy April 24, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Are you kidding me right now?! This post could not have been more timely for me. This is the fear that has been stifling me for the past 2 months! I’m trying out a new marketing product and posted some samples online. The response was tepid at best. Nothing like I hoped it would be, and so disappointing. I was just deflated. It took a while to suck it up, shake it off and try again.

I just today registered for a trade show to introduce that same product, and I’m absolutely terrified of sucking again – live and in person no less. But, better to suck than to not have sucked at all, right? It builds character, and I think it’s necessary for building businesses as well. Thanks Corbett!

Taylor April 24, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Great post Corbett. As someone just getting started with online business, sucking is something I am all about right now.

I am fortunate that learning a couple languages earlier in life taught me how important sucking is.

Matt S April 24, 2012 at 11:02 pm

Dear Corbett,

To answer your question I am terrified of public speaking! It is something that we all have to deal with, yet I can never grow accustom to it. (I almost feel ashamed because I’ve taken classes!!!). I have a big speech coming up this weekend and I am nervous on how it will go.

I understand your comment on the feeling of superiority. It is a hard feeling to escape and I come across it often and try to combat it as best I can.

Thanks!

Mickey Oddwin April 25, 2012 at 12:44 pm

I’m failing to get someone to follow me with a camera and capture me achieving set goals so I can publish the proof, lessons learned, how to’s etc!! It should be so simple but people have better things to do with their own time I suppose… still attempting to figure out a solution!!

Dan Sumner April 26, 2012 at 5:47 am

Hey Corbett,

I guess we all feel like our products or achievements are going to suck at some point.

So what if it does, as long as we learn from it and correct the errors the next time we can grow stronger.

Never heard of anyone who didn’t suck at some point in their life.

Dan

Andrew Stark April 26, 2012 at 3:21 pm

Hi Corbett

I currently work as a research scientist, and when we do chemistry for the first time it does wrong, and you may get a pile of tarry liquid 75% pure vs the white solid that is expected.

If we give up at the first attempt then no new molecules would ever get approved and the world would go backwards as disease’s change and become drug resistant.

Now I have 10 years worth of failures behind me it’s amazing how much easier it is to develop something that will generally work well after a few weeks.

Andrew

Tim Gillette April 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm

Hey Corbett

This is so true and such a great idea to let people know. Also you have to learn to use those things being told you by well meaning friends to help you grow.
In the beginning you will receive more criticism from those who do not have the courage to do something themselves…
Keep pushing on when you get that, use those words they throw at you to learn to become better at it.. The hardest thing is to just step out side the comfort zone and be the first in your world to stand out doing something different.
Rock On
Tim

Shayna April 26, 2012 at 4:47 pm

What’s something you’ve been too afraid of failure to try lately?

Using video on my blog. Readers have requested it, and I think it’d fit perfectly with my product – but aaaaargh, I’m an introvert AND a perfectionist, and it’ll probably take me about 2,000 takes until I get each video “just right!”

I’m taking the leap and recording an introductory video for a new course next week. We’ll see how that goes, maybe it’ll break the ice and I’ll get more comfortable with being in front of a camera :-)

OutsideMyMind April 26, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Nice post….yes, it can be really messy in the beginning. People just assume those who are successful have everything under control, and so forth. They don’t realize that under the hood the gears are grinding, oil is spilling everywhere and it’s messy to say the least.

I’ve started more than my fair share of new ventures, and every time it was pretty much “fake it, until you make it”. Over time I made mistakes, learned some lessons and improved my skills. Eventually, I became better and better, and gradually it became easier and easier…then of course, I quit to pursue something new and start the grind all over : )

Lisa April 27, 2012 at 9:36 am

Wow so true! We always see look at people in the ‘lime-light’ and think wow but we are not seeing them when they first started. Many times we are seeing the product of years of failure! Time to step out big and fail big! :)

Andrew April 27, 2012 at 1:18 pm

Great post Corbett!

We all live in a subjective world right? Quality work or not, there’s always going to be a naysayer lurking amongst the crowd.

Cast doubt aside, and go for it!

Welcome failure, your work will become richer because of it.

Saad belfqih April 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm

I really appreciate this post ! I always fail to get over the mistakes and failures that i pass while trying something new. Recently , i have create a blog and i promised my self to update it 3 times per month at least .Unfortunately only 2 post has been written during 3 months ! I don’t wanna give up but i feel nervous each time i start writing some thing new..

Gipsy Jules May 6, 2012 at 9:21 am

I’m too afraid to fail at writing… or, maybe, at create anything and showing it to the world. I always think everybody is going to think I suck…

Anyway, very inspiring post, Corbett. Congratulations!

Raj May 6, 2012 at 10:17 am

Glad to know I am not the only one!

In the next 24 hours, I am going to experiment on something I am just thinking for about 6 month.

Tate May 7, 2012 at 12:44 am

Right on point. You don’t know how many times my blogs failed before having one that is growing steadily. Having the creativity is good and well but the tenacity to not give up is even better. You keep on trying until the results that you seek start coming. It takes time so be patient and keep putting your best out there.

Alagappan Muthu May 7, 2012 at 2:02 am

One mantra I use: JFDI….Just F***ing Do It! If it works out, you have learnt a way of doing it right, if it does not work out, you know one way how it should not be done.

Satya May 7, 2012 at 5:56 am

Well said and very motivating line.This gives me energy to experiment with my blog. :)

Pranjal May 7, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Simply awesome note, I was really at writing first but I keep on trying and sooner it has become better but, still it’s yet to be enhanced. Yes! feedback needs to be taken seriously, and we should always try to implement those feedback as soon as possible. :)

Andi-Roo May 9, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Criticism on my writing doesn’t bother me, because I know it’s a growth process. I look forward to my first rejection letter, actually, because it will mean I (a) completed a project, & (b) had the courage to submit it.

Something I’m scared to try? Painting. All my life I’ve thought I didn’t have a creative bone in my body, but the last few years have taught me I can at least dabble, even if I don’t do it well. I keep NOT purchasing items toward this art form, though, because once I have the tools, I will no longer have an excuse to NOT dive in. I already have some canvass — I think I’ll pick up some paint & brushes tonight. Thanks for the encouragement. This was just the kick in the rear I needed!

Wish me luck! :)

Nomadic Samuel May 31, 2012 at 2:36 am

Indeed, I couldn’t agree with you more. I took this approach while teaching myself how to take photos. I knew I would suck for a long time (and I did) before I’d take decent shots.

ed June 24, 2012 at 7:33 am

Well said. I believe this is something every true entrepreneur learns at the very beginning of his career, then moves on to improve…

Nelly September 7, 2012 at 10:44 am

Thank you very much! Just earlier I was struggling with myself. I feared of doing something because I know I suck at it and I might end up a laughing stock to others, but reading your article made me realize that there is no room for any success if I don’t take the first step.

Eoin November 19, 2012 at 3:10 pm

Was this turned into a video at some point? I definitely saw a video with this entire article, done in a typography style. If anyone has the link I’d appreciate it as it’s easier to send people.

Anyway, this is an amazing article :)

Corbett Barr November 20, 2012 at 9:23 am

You might be thinking of this video featuring Ira Glass from This American Life: http://vimeo.com/24715531

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