Why It’s TOTALLY Okay to Suck at This

Overcoming the fear of being mediocre might well be how you become amazing

Julia E Hubbel
Nov 8, 2020 · 7 min read

I have no clue who Dr. Christine Carter is, nor do I much care, with this exception.

She really rocks this one idea. I found it this morning. In that way that a really, really REALLY good idea- nearly always an oblique way of seeing something really fucking obvious- gets me excited, I just love this one.

Let’s talk first. Lemme set the stage here.

I see thousands of Medium articles all the time about excellence and mastery and blah blah GAH blah blah.

Be BEST (oh wait, that was Melania). Rock this! Beat the competition!

The implication- and it’s a glaring lie- is that the very first time we ever do anything it has to be at a master’s level.

When you combine this pap with comparison culture which makes it appear that everyone else is nailing it first time out, it looks pretty bleak for the rest of us rookies.

If I may, please.

My buddy Rosennab started running in her forties. Struggled with asthma, sucked at it. She stuck with it, and started running marathons.

Back in 2013 I was typically working out three days a week. I decided to climb Kilimanjaro. I learned how to ride the Black Bitch, a high-end racing bike who threw my ass in the hospital on the FIRST ride. I sucked at it.

By summer’s end, I was trailing my trainer up steep hills. I was sixty at the time. Didn’t slow me down one bit. By the time I left for Tanzania I was working out up to four hours a day six days a week. MY GOD was I in shape. Still am.

Most things we do the first time, barring being an utter natural or beginner’s luck,

We will SUCK at it.

That’s the whole point. We’re supposed to when we’re new at anything.

This is where Dr. Carter comes in. Her article:

First of all, her article is just so timely. Most folks I know, this deeply into the Year That Sucked, had great ideas about getting in shape. After all, we have all that time, right?

We were gonna write that novel. Start that online business. Gonna…..

Fuck it.

How far did YOU get with that, you with the kids and the cooking and the recalcitrant partner who couldn’t be bothered or any one of a thousand other reasons? Me neither. I got a lot of things done but somehow the Great American Novel never got off the ground.

Including feeling like you really are not in the mood to suck at just one more thing, given that life just kinda sucked in general this year for so many and for so many reasons.

This is the part of Carter’s article that totally nailed it for me this lovely Sunday-after-election day:

Why did I skip exercise despite knowing all this?

The truth is our ability to follow through on our intentions — to get into a new habit like exercise or to change our behavior in any way — actually doesn’t depend on the reasons that we might do it or on the depth of our convictions to do it. It also doesn’t depend on our understanding of the benefits of a particular behavior, or even on the strength of our willpower.

Instead, it depends on our willingness to be bad at our desired behavior.

And I hate being bad at stuff. I’m a “go big or go home” kind of gal. I like being good at things, and I quit exercising because I wasn’t willing to be bad at it.

Yeah. Did that by any chance resonate with you like it did with me?

First of all, she discusses (read the article) how she got started. What I totally love is that on those days she just bloody well does NOT want to run twenty minutes, she runs sixty seconds.

Yep. Sixty seconds. Because that’s just so way better than not at all. It’s doable, and it keeps you in the zone. While you might not be in training for the New York Marathon, you did do something. For my Covid quarantine dollar that’s a poo-load better than settling my ass into my new couch and doing nothing other than watching Ironman for the thirty-third time.

For those of you who are in the absolutist category, kindly sit that part of you down. Because this:

It can be incredibly tempting, especially for the overachievers, to want to do more than our designated better than nothing habit. So I must warn you: The moment in which you are no longer willing to do something unambitious is the moment in which you risk everything.

There are days I can climb Kilimanjaro. There are days I can’t roll outta bed. There are days I’m so unstoppable that I scare myself. There are days that the act of dealing with One More Fucking Thing is too much.

All last week was like that. Until we knew the election results, my brain was pig poo.

Today, I am working on the endless piles around the house, full of energy, even if I can’t yet run due to a fractured toe. But my motivation mojo is back.

We cannot be full-on all the time. People who read my posts from my trips don’t realize that my full-on days have to be balanced by days of fuckit. They were all of them preceded by days, weeks and years of mediocrity- not for want of effort, just lack of experience, competence, practice and failure.

I have failed forward out of mediocrity towards mastery my entire life. None of it happened overnight. Which is why I am very good at those things I was willing to suck at, which is most things I ever did.

Mediocrity doesn’t scare me any more, if for no other reason that I get more excited about trying something new. For that is where I get to answer the question of whether I have the genuine passion to stick with it (as with dietary habits, which resulted in a permanent loss of 85+ lbs). If I have the will and longevity to learn a new sport, or fail horribly at skating (didn’t stick with that). Mediocrity is where we manage our fears and negotiate our willingness to fail enough to start getting good.

Being mediocre teaches us where we are weak and points us where we need to work hard to get good.

Carter’s progress report:

I’m happy to report that after months of struggle, I am now a runner. I became one by allowing myself to be bad at it. While you couldn’t call me an athlete — there are no half marathons in my future — I am consistent. (author bolded)

We will never get good at X unless you and I are willing to tolerate being bad at X first. Infants suck at walking. Doesn’t slow them down. We turn into emotional adult infants in our bullheaded needed to Be BEST (sorry, outgoing First Lady) at every single thing.

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Photo by Priscila Batista on Unsplash

No. Be bad. Be shitty. I sure am. And here’s your very best advice of the day not from Dr. Carter but from me, unsolicited but here goes anyway: The absolute BEST comedy material I have is from where I suck. I suck at a lotta shit. Way I see it, that keeps me laughing, I write funny stories, have thousands of hilarious tales at my expense, that keeps others laughing, and since I keep on trying new shit all the time, I will continue to suck at a whole lotta things until I don’t suck at leaving this mortal plane.

Be bad and write about it. Folks love folks who fuck up, make it funny, give us all permission to fuck up and find it funny. That’s mastery. We stand on the skeletons of our mediocrity and get better and better until one day, it’s just effortless. True of writing, riding bikes, and riding the waves of life’s natural ups and downs.

At least Dr. Carter gave me the perfect answer to all those folks who keep wanting to know how I “get” my guns, how I “get” to do international adventure travel.

I sucked at all of it. But I didn’t quit until I got really, really good at it.

Now I’m looking for more thing to suck at.

Like Dating. But then I’ve sucked at that for fifty years and counting. Still my best comedy material.

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Photo by Callum Shaw on Unsplash

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Julia E Hubbel

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

Julia E Hubbel

Written by

Horizon Huntress, prize-winning author, adventure traveler, boundary-pusher, wilder, veteran, aging vibrantly. I own my sh*t. Let’s play!

ILLUMINATION-Curated

Outstanding stories objectively and diligently selected by 40+ senior editors on ILLUMINATION

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