I ran across these great words posted by a fellow designer today. Although I don’t know his name, or even where he resides in the world, the message is no less true. If you’re out there brah, thanks for the insight! (p.s. it looks like a longer read than it actually is)
“One of the things I’m loving about CrossFit (yep, still sticking with it and yep, I still suck) is how we start the class. We all gather around in a circle, start stretching, give our names and answer a simple question. It’s a great way to get to know the fellow members in the class and is proving to be a better way to get to know myself.
The questions are usually very straightforward like “What did you do this weekend?” or “Do you have a hidden talent?” but there’s usually a word count. Saying what you did this weekend is easy, doing it in two words, well… It’s not impossible, but it forces you to think. Sure you can brush it off (and I occasionally do), go for the cheap laugh (which I occasionally try for and fail to do), but I’ve found that I enjoy the exercise of taking the better questions seriously.
In our last class, we were asked to share the secret to our success in three words. After thinking on it for a few, I landed on a theme I speak about regularly here on the site, I’m “willing to suck.” I’ve learned to accept that being bad at something is the first part of getting better at it.
As I struggled home from class (“Row 1000m for time,” they said… “It will be fun,” they said…), I kept turning those three words over in my head, realizing that they weren’t quite right. Accepting that you’re going to suck is important. Starting anything new or even improving at what you’re already doing is often frustrating and difficult, but doing it publicly is where it can become outright embarrassing. And this is where I’m starting to believe that it’s actually my “willingness to look foolish” that will inevitably prove to be my secret (success is still a ways off in my book).
So what’s the difference between being willing to suck or look foolish? It’s easier to suck in private, to not tell anyone what you’re attempting. It’s no less frustrating, but the risk level is lower. If you fail, no one ever has to know. Now, willing to look foolish is an entirely different animal, and it only begins when you start sucking in public. Sure, there will be some who judge or laugh at you, but more often it leads you to those who are willing to push you forward, challenge your ideas and teach you a thing or thousand (I may require more help than others…).
By willing to look foolish, I’m finding people who help me get better and getting the encouragement needed to push through the early, seemingly impossible stages of just about any endeavor. I’ve found it to be true in CrossFit, I’ve found it to be true when it comes to the work I’m doing on this site and, as I’m willing to look foolish in my everyday life, I’m finding it to be true in my personal and professional relationships.
The more I’m willing to put myself and my intent out there, the more support I find and the better advice I’m able to get. The more I support others in return, the more we feel just a little less foolish in each other’s company (although, when continuing to push yourself, that feeling never really goes away). This means risking pubic failure, but I find it offers a far greater chance for success. Only time will tell if this is indeed my secret, but sitting in that circle, getting ready to suffer through a workout (1000m looked so easy on their blog…), knowing that I was about to look like a fool was a great reminder that the first step to overcoming any challenge is getting over myself.”