Everyone sucks at the beginning, so start now.

(it’s more embarrassing later)

Being bad at something is uncomfortable. Really uncomfortable.

And as humans, we are wired to avoid discomfort, aren’t we? Something about not wanting the tribe to cast us out because we suck at hunting a mammoth. It runs deep.

The thing is, there’s a point in time at which being bad at something is uncomfortable, but socially acceptable and kind of to be expected. And then there’s a point at which it’s expected that we know how to do something, and then it’s weird (and therefore more uncomfortable) when we don’t.

When a two year old spills her drink down her front because she doesn’t have fine motor skills yet, that’s probably really uncomfortable for her. No-one likes being covered in juice.

But while we might laugh and post a video of it to YouTube (Have you seen this hilarious and slightly related video?? It gives me life, I tell you), we’re not really surprised, are we? She sucks at drinking, she’s two, it’s to be expected.

If, however, a twelve year old did the same thing, that would be weird. We would laugh, post a video, and also think to ourselves “How is it that a twelve year old can’t use a cup properly??”

Fail, and fail often

So it’s pretty obvious that we have to not only let the two year old spill drinks everywhere, we actually have to encourage her to fail often, so she gets better. We have to do a lot of laundry and accept that the carpet smells like slowly decomposing orange juice. Yum.

If we give her a sippy cup forever, or stop her from using normal cups because we like our carpet better than we like her development of fine motor skills, down the track, things are going to get weird.

In the same way, we have to accept that we will suck at things. And we have to keep going.

It will be uncomfortable. But it’s better to feel that discomfort now than later, when it’s not only weird and therefore more uncomfortable, but also actively holding you back from something you want.

How does this relate to studying?

Often we see students who don’t try because they think they’re bad at a subject or part of a subject.

They might not do certain internals or exam papers because they aren’t confident about them.

Or they might act like they don’t care about a subject, never ask questions, never admit they don’t know something, never take a stab at a difficult question.

The Vicious Cycle

What then happens is that they do eventually suck, not because they’re actually terrible at giving speeches or algebra or whatever, but because they’re stuck at the level at which they stopped trying. They’re giving speeches like an 8 year old, or doing maths like a 13 year old.

This is a vicious cycle, of course.

You feel like you’re bad at something.

You don’t try.

Everyone else gets better, while you stay the same.

You feel worse.

You’re even less likely to try.

The key is to catch this as soon as possible. It’ll be uncomfortable to break out of this now, but it’ll be much worse later on.

I once spilt an entire curry in someones handbag, on their birthday when I was working as a waitress. True story. And yes, it was pretty much the worst case scenario at the time. I think I cried in the bathroom before scraping Chicken Tikka Masala out of this poor woman’s bag.

But honestly, no one cares now. Sure, people find it funny. But I was about fifteen, and almost everything can be written off when you’re fifteen (take advantage of it).

And I was the best waitress they had ever had six months later, so what up now. Point proven.

I don’t want to be 28 years old and have the skills of a 28 year old in all other areas, but be like a 12 year old in public speaking, or writing, or maths. I don’t want to cry in the bathroom when it really matters.

And so I say, let’s spill some juice. Or get the answer completely wrong. Or spill curry in strangers bags. Let’s do it now, so we can look back and laugh at how terrible we were, and how far we’ve come.

Most people don’t actually suck at something – they just stop trying to get better. So let’s accept the embarrassment, and fail now, before it gets worse.