You need to suck, in order to learn

One of the joys of 2014 for me was to learn to sing – from very much a position of sucking at it. I still suck whenever I start learning a new song. What I realized is that we have to be prepared to suck at something before we can be good at it, or even learn it.

By “sucking” at something I mean, being very, very bad at it. I realize now I’ve been there many times.

There was a time when I had no idea what XML was; now if you search that term and my name you’ll find I have a contribution to be made.

There was a time when I sucked at metadata – like XML I had no idea why it was important.

The thing is, I’ve sucked at so many things and yet, putting through the sucky period, eventually we suck a little less, then barely at all, until we arrive at a point of knowing we don’t suck at that skill or knowledge any more.

Never be afraid to start off badly: it’s the only way to learn something new.

2 replies on “You need to suck, in order to learn”

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  1. Perhaps I’m crazy, but I always appreciate it when someone admits that they make mistakes and aren’t perfect. That, at one point, they sucked like the rest of us.
    Question though – do you ever look back and realize you sucked at something you (at that moment) thought was actually quite decent?
    Right now I’m wrapping up a project that has taken longer than hoped for and while they always turn out great (at least the client thinks so), as proud as I may be right now I end up looking back with a bit of a cringe with how I could have edited each piece a little better. While any given project seems like my “best yet” but looking back it will undoubtedly be seen as a stepping stone and many lessons learned.
    I’m curious about your singing – did you take any classes or listen to podcasts or youtube videos to learn how to sing? Or are you just “singing more” along with songs?

    1. I know for sure there was a point where I though I was making progress with my singing. I was for sure, but when I recorded my singing, and played it back, I hadn’t made as much progress as I’d thought. Those reality checks are useful to work out where we stand with our bourgeoning skill or knowledge.

      On the other hand, there have been projects that I felt left me flat when I finished them: “It’s OK, but probably needed something more…” king of attitude. Often when I look back on those pieces months or years later, I realize that they were pretty good. The problem was that I was too close to all the problems that had been overcome to get to the end result, and not seeing the end result as others will.

      So reality checks go both ways.

      As for the singing, I very quickly found a great teacher here in Burbank – April Lindsey who has the patience to listen through that (extensive) period where I sucked mightily. I put in an appropriate amount of practice – usually daily – but it’s entirely for my own enjoyment. Learning new things – particularly finding new paths through the brain – keeps the brain plastic and open to learning even more new things. And that’s a good thing.

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