It’s not just the first step

“Dude, sucking at something is the first step to being sort of good at something.”

But it’s not just the first step.

There is not a straight upward climb to mastery.

It’s a series of starts and stops. It’s mastering a level and then climbing to the next and sucking at that for a while.

It’s dips and dives and plateaus. Climb a little higher, fall back a little further. Get stuck at a point that feels endless. Keep at it, keep at it, keep at it. Get so involved in the work you forget about being stuck. Realize you’ve jumped a few levels ahead at something you love.

What a feeling that is. 

It’s not imposter syndrome, either. Imposter syndrome is thinking you’re bad at something when you’re actually good at it.

No, this is actually being bad at some aspect of what you’re doing. Maybe it’s a fundamental. Maybe it’s a nuance. But it’s not insecurity; it’s a lack.Lack of skill or application or consistency or something. You  need practice. Time. More practice. More time. More sucking.

And it’s learning that actually being bad at some aspect of what you’re doing–what you love doing, what you’re “supposed to be good at”–is part of being a genuine practitioner of that thing.

Being bad, and keeping at it.

Being bad, and not giving up.

Sucking so much, and putting in the effort anyway. Sucking and hating the outcome and going back to it.

And, when you finally get better at that little piece of it, you’ll rejoice for a millisecond. Then you find some other aspect that you also suck at.

Back to work. Back to doing. Back to trying. Back to sucking.

Back to being an amateur.

Feeling like a novice while still practicing your craft is, I think, the mark of a true professional.