Last night I was at a weekly improv night where teams of amateur drama class types played games for a paying audience. Think “Whose line is it anyway” or standup sets that are actually 3-minute scenes. I had taken 2 six week courses a few months before because I was interested in sparking my creative side again and improv was something that I enjoyed when I was in High School. So by no means am I or my teammates professionals. In fact, we are so new at this I could count on my hand how many times we have performed on stage. Regardless, it’s usually a VERY small crowd and they are mostly family or friends of the performing teams anyway. It’s light, casual and we just need to get up there and be clever. While my team (The Stunned Mullets) have had a few ‘ha ha’ sets, we are usually the less polished of the performing teams and given they have a few State Champion players (you know, winners of university and region competitions), we sort of are the weakest there.
But last night was an interesting experience. Because we bombed on the final performance. I mean we weren’t terrible, but the host blew the whistle (literally!) get off the stage. No laughs were had, could feel the cringe in the room and yeah- it was time to just off the stage. As we returned to our seats as the barely there applause sounded around us, you feel low. Then you feel even worse when the following team absolutely kills it and your friends are laughing harder than ever before. And that’s the moment you realise, after the hours of commitment and practice and showing up – you still suck!
And this feeling can apply to anything that you want to be amazing at. Sport, writing, losing weight- the acknowledged that regardless of the effort and honest application to whatever it is that you are doing- you will evidently still be crap. Maybe for a long time still.. or maybe forever,
So I wanted to explore this idea of sucking (pardon the expression) because it is something that either we never hear about or effects so much that we never want to try new things. This is why we need to suck first.
SHOW ME THE WORK
We live in a world where people become famous overnight, look like a goddess when they wake up and get the dream job straight out of school. Circumstances of ‘luck’ and overnight success stories plague our social feeds and are the norm in interviews with the rich and famous. We even write our own stories about how the well put together boss-lady got to the top, she was must have been born with it, the talent and skill that is. But the truth is, everyone has to put in time and effort to get better at anything. Sure, you may have a head start in the form of a contact or resources like equipment or cash. But to get better at presenting or running a marathon- there is a hard slog that goes into it. Everyone sucks at the beginning, it’s just that nobody is broadcasting it! I mean have you ever seen a Tweet saying “I bombed again last night, and the night before too. Just trying to get better. Really loving it!” No one is admitting there repeated failures as they are practice to get perfect so it feels extra lonely at the bottom. But let’s not forget that other people are sucking or have sucked many times before. The clique is tired, but it’s true- the only way is up.
FAIL HARD AND OFTEN
As hard as it is and as shitty as you feel if you want to achieve greatness you need to marinate and roll around in sucking. Analyse it, break it apart, dissect it and then try (and suck) again. Because the more you understand why you are sucking at something, the more you will tweak your approach in an effort to suck less. Could you be better prepared? Did that plan work? What habits help you be better? What makes you lose your cool? Comedians thankfully are honest about their craft. They say you should bomb hard and often. You will learn quicker and know what works and what does not earlier on. Same goes for start-ups, be agile when failing and learn quickly. Learning to suck accelerates your improvement. Learn to enjoy it.
SUCH A SHOW UP
Sucking often is the easy part. Like I have seen already, for me it comes quite… naturally. Having the resilience to continue is the challenging part. When you are having ongoing feedback that you are doing something wrong, it makes you question if you should even bother. And that is true! Whatever it may be, ask yourself – is this something that is worth the work. If the answer is still yes, keep at it! Refer to points 1 and 2! But if the answer is no, then maybe your heart is not in it or you need to grow a thicker skin so you can learn from the suck. It is a harsh reality but it is those kinds of questions that make you think about why you are showing up to do the work and make the effort. In the sucking, faze of learning something is when the amateurs drop off- the people that would never have made it and given up the chance. But in sticking it out and showing up- you already are sucking less, because you are there for training/ practice/ early mornings. Keep being resilient and keep on showing up.
Somethings are bitter at the start so they are sweeter at the end (that’s a Madonna lyric FYI). Nothing starts polish at the start and next time I bomb and completely and utterly suck, I will make sure I enjoy it while it lasts.
Image Source: gettyimages.com.au