Why being alright with sucking is the first step to learning how to do something right.

As a coach I’ve noticed a trend with people both in the gym and on their bikes when it comes to learning something new. They seem to think that the once they’ve been shown something their first goal is to “do it right”.

Doing it “right” isn’t the goal, you’re goal is to do a little better each time.

However, people rarely go from learning something new to “doing it right”. Instead, they have to go through a period of sucking at it until they learn how to do it right.

And this is where most people get stuck.

They aren’t alright with sucking, which makes it tough to lean how to do it right. They figure that if they can’t do it perfectly right off the bat they may as well not even try.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that I was reminded of this the other day when helping a kid figure out how to balance on his knees on a stability ball.

There were a bunch of kids playing on them and I had shown him how to do it but he was really timid. When he tried it you could tell that his top priority was not falling off and looking like he didn’t know how to do it in front of everyone.

Once I told him that he’s going to fall off his first time so just get it out of the way he relaxed. He went for it, fell off, saw it wasn’t that bad and within a few minuted was balancing like a pro.

And it all started with giving him permission to suck until he figured things out.

I also see when someone how to do a new exercise. In fact, this happens so much that I have a pre-planned speech that goes something like this…

“Don’t worry about doing it right. You have a  lot of bad reps before you figure it out so just relax and get them out of the way.”

Whenever I say this you can see the tension leave their face. Once they know that sucking at it is part of the process and not an indictment on them as a person they can relax and let the learning begin.

In fact, even when you figure out how to do something right you’re goal should still be to look for ways that you can get better. This, in essence, says you’ll never have it figured out because you know you can always get better.

If you’re goal isn’t to hunt down how you suck at something but instead to rush to get it figured out and “do it right” then you’ll hit a point where you can’t progress. How can you improve when you’re trying to protect your ego instead of being honest with yourself about how you can improve?

So what does this mean for you?

Be bold when trying to learn a new exercise, workout routine or technical skill.

Being bold doesn’t mean being stupid and taking unnecessary risks. It means doing the best you can, knowing that you won’t do it “right” and not caring about how you look doing it wrong.

Applied to your riding and training this mindset will save you a lot of stress and open you to possible solutions you’d never see if you’re not alright with sucking. Besides, no ones is perfect which is why we are constantly pursuing it.

Doing it “right” isn’t the goal, you’re goal is to do a little better each time.

“Men are not perfect in any aspect of their lives, no matter the amount of time, effort and energy that they put into their search for perfection. The virtue of perfection is that it is always just beyond a man’s reach. This is good. If perfection were attainable it would have no value – there would be no reason to pursue it”. – Miyamoto Musashi from The Book of 5 Rings

So how do you feel about sucking at something? Are you alright with it, embracing it as part of the learning process or do you find yourself avoiding it? I’d love to hear your thoughts, post a comment below to let me know what you think.

And if you liked this post please click one of the Share or Like buttons below to help me spread the word.

Until next time…

Ride Strong,

James Wilson

The Ultimate MTB Workout Program

The Ultimate MTB Workout ProgramThis workout program is designed with one simple purpose – to be the best mountain bike training program on the planet. When you are ready to take your training program to the highest level possible then you can’t do better than this workout program. Based on my years of working with some of the best riders on the planet, this truly is the Ultimate MTB Workout Program.
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  1. Geoffrey says:

    There is actually a fancy term for this. It’s called conscious incompetence. To me, the clearest example is juggling. no one picks up three balls and just starts juggling.

    That’s why safe practice is so important. My wheelie drops are off curbs first, then 1 foot, and I’ll work up to bigger drops. Deadlifts are with less weight while I dial in form.

    Time to have fun.

    Reply • September 30 at 8:32 am
  2. John says:

    This was a problem I had for a while. It however did not stop me from getting on the bike whenever I had the chance. It did however stop any progress from happening. My “I suck at this” attitude kept me from pushing myself to my true limit for improvement. Getting rid of this attitude has helped me simply by thinking of the stuff that James has been bringing to my attention that I never really thought about before, rather than thinking about how bad I sucked at something.

    Reply • September 30 at 6:50 pm
  3. Geoffrey says:

    I totally agree with this James. I did my first year racing this year and I was expecting to just be successful straight away. All i was bothered about was looking good. I noticed the results were not where I expected them to be at all. Towards the end of this season I had figured out that I wasnt as good at racing as I thought i’d be and accepted it. The results since then have been greatly improved. If I had accepted at the start of the year that I had a lot to learn my results might have picked up sooner. If all you are concentrating on is how good you look at something its very hard to actually do it right, particularly if it is something that is technically very difficult.

    Reply • October 10 at 3:42 pm

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