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Give Yourself Permission to Suck

When I was growing up I decided I wanted to play the guitar. I loved music, appreciated songwriting and wanted to be able to play and sing. As anyone who has ever tried to learn an instrument or anyone that’s lived with someone trying to learn a musical instrument can attest, at first you’re going to be really, really bad.

jeffmcneill via Flickr

But, if your desire to play is significant and you push through with practice, eventually, something magical can occur. Now, I never practiced enough to expect to rise very high in my musical career, but I did advance to the point where I could earn money, tips and drinks by playing in the bars in the town where I attended college.

The point is, if you want to achieve any level of success in your business one of the things you must do is give yourself permission to be bad at the things you don’t know how to do.

I encounter business owners frequently that tell me they are bad at this thing or that thing, or they fear they can’t master this important skill. The thing about holding back or caving in to fear is that it zaps your passion and kills your art.

There are so many things you must do in order to build a business and with most of these things you’ll have no idea how to do them properly and no experience to draw upon other than what you witness around you.

If you succeed in business at all at times it’s because you push through, fall down, and get back up to assess what you’ve learned.

The thing is though, many business owners just flat ignore some of the steps they must take in order to move their business forward with momentum because they don’t think they know enough about how to do something, or they don’t think they like that kind of work, or someone told them they’re no good at something.

If you’ve ever felt like your business is stuck and you keep bumping up against some unseen force that won’t let you move forward, look no further than yourself. The enemy is you and your unwillingness to do the things you must even though you’re afraid you’ll fail.

I’m not really trying to give you a pep talk here, this is straight on practical advice. You’re going to suck at many of things you need to do and that’s okay, that’s how you get to where you’re going.

There’s a chapter in the wonderful book Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott titled Shitty First Drafts. Lamott describes a process of writing that involves getting something down on paper, without analysis, knowing that it won’t be very good, but also knowing that it’s the only way to get to the second and final draft. Unless you’re willing to write something very bad, you’ll never get to something beautiful.

When I realized that in order to build the business I wanted to build I would have to write every day, I just started to write. I had never really written this way and I was very bad at it. I didn’t want to be bad at it, but I gave myself permission to because it was the only way I was going to get somewhere I wanted to go. (Your ego has way of helping sometimes because I probably didn’t think some of my first works were as bad as they really were.)

When I realized that in order to build the business I wanted to build I would to have to get up in front of audiences and speak, I just started to do it. I had never done it before and I was very bad at it. I didn’t want to be bad at it, but I gave myself permission to because it was the only way I was going to get somewhere I wanted to go.

I’m by no means a great writer or a great speaker, but I’ve stuck with both long enough to get to the point where they are essential elements of my business and brand because I knew they had to be.

So far no one has been injured or killed by my doing either and that’s the point. Give yourself permission to be bad at doing the things you want and need to do and you might find that your art flows more easily.

So, by this point you might be saying, “But I don’t know how to get started with . . . ” – blogging, accounting, analysis, speaking, selling, hiring, SEO, or any other of a myriad of necessary activities I’m no good at.

That’s part two – How to be really, really good at everything you do.

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