Learn a New Skill by Giving Yourself Permission to Suck

Do you remember when you first started learning the alphabet? You looked at a page in your favorite storybook. There were these funny symbols. One looked like a tent, another looked like an up-turned camel.

You didn’t know what to think: How were you ever gonna learn all of these?

So a few weeks pass by and you got your letters down pat. You can recite your ABCs and you know the difference between that tricky “N” and “M” shapes. Those fricken’ things look and sound almost exactly the same. Why did they do that?

So now it’s on to reading. You have to learn how words are constructed, the difference between a consonant and a vowel and what letters make which sounds. Dude, it’s a lot to learn. You knew that it was gonna take time and energy to learn this stuff. But, with 4 year old determination you took it in stride.

There were no outs, no excuses, there wasn’t any other option than to learn how to read.

Now, for a funny story my dad like’s to tell in an attempt to embarrass me.

When I was learning to read,  I read a book about the sounds animals make. The book was laid out brilliantly with a picture of the animal on each page and a caption under each picture. One of the first pages featured a picture of a cat. The caption cleverly read, “The cat goes, meow.”

Wow, what an amazing concept. I see a cat, I know what sound the little bastard makes. I can read a sentence!

But, wait… There was one problem. My juvenile mind didn’t make this distinction. I missed that piece of the puzzle.

I flipped over to the next page, it was a picture of a dog. Under this cleverly placed canine, was the sentence, “The dog goes, bow wow, bow wow.”

My little pea-brain knew that B made a “buuuh” sound and and O made an “oooooh” sound. So I combined that shit. My finger carefully positioned under the word dog I started the sentence, “The… dog…” alright I’m doing this. “gooo-s”. Alright, I nailed that part of the sentence. Ok, so G-o was go. So B-o must be bo. “The dog goes boooooh, woooooh.” Boom, nailed it! High fives all around.


My parents had a good chuckle.

Seeing the folly in my way. I corrected it. You learn more from your failure than your victories.

Now, I can read books twice as difficult! And they don’t even need pictures for me to read them. Babysitters Club here I come!

It is hard when you first try anything new. If you started at 4, like me, you had no concept of failure. You were going to eventually learn this stuff and be able to read like a champ.

Could you even imagine learning this stuff as an adult? Could you imagine making that same mistake? It would be  mortifying and probably lead to paralysis.

The moral of the story is; you have to give yourself permission to suck when you try something new.

New skills are hard. Skills like writing, playing a musical instrument, or playing a new sport. The challenge is what makes them fun and keeps them interesting.

I had a similar experience when attempting to learn the guitar at age 31. I couldn’t keep time, I couldn’t carry a rhythm, my fingers wouldn’t go where I wanted them to. I was pretty horrible. I’m still not that great, but that doesn’t matter. I have incorporated guitar into my daily practice and have committed to a weekly lesson with an instructor. Hendrix I may never be, but I will keep on progressing my skill.

Remember, the greats started at the same place you did. They sucked too. They stuck to it. They got better.

What is the last activity, skill, or ability you tried to learn? How did it feel when you failed while learning a this new skill? Did you make up a story how you weren’t gifted or you just aren’t cut out for this? …or how you were genetically predisposed to failure?

Did you really try? I’d be interested to read your comments or have a discussion.

What skill are you currently trying to learn?

Author: Jeff

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  1. Jeff,

    I am learning how to rank well in Google. I had no knowledge of SEO when l begun, but l have a grip of it now. It was not easy, made some mistakes, and learned with practice.

    The new skill l am learning about is how to conduct great interviews. Thanks for another great post. Enjoy your weekend.


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  2. Thanks, Marucs. Good luck on your podcast!

    Post a Reply

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