09/29/2014 04:57 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Don't Worry... Be Crappy

Getty Images

Life has a funny way of keeping us all humble, yes?

I speak from years of experience, which have included a whole lot of moments where I found myself... shall we say... not at my best.

Take, for example, my recent efforts to learn yoga... where even the simplest-seeming pose came out like this:


Or take my attempt to speak even mildly decent French at a McDonald's in Paris... where I ordered a bag of apple slices and -- I kid you not -- got this instead:


Or take every day that I sit at my computer trying to write something brilliant... where I often find myself doing this:


(note: photo taken at today's actual writing session)

Over the years I've gotten pretty good at being pretty crappy at some things.

To be clear, I hate being crappy at things. It's not my intention, it's frustrating. But I also know that sometimes it's just necessary.

I first learned this concept from one of my favorite authorities on writing, Julia Cameron... who wrote (and I'm paraphrasing here) that in order to write something well we must first be willing to write it badly.

Now, since I feel this pertains to a lot more than writing... and since my own self-deprecating history leaves me flinching at the word "badly," I have changed and expanded the lesson to this:

In order to do something awesome, we must first be willing to do it crappy.

Stick with me on this.

We step out of our comfort zones all of the time.

  • We take the lead on a data-gathering project at the office for the first time
  • We cook a complicated Thai curry dish for the first time
  • We attempt to lay bathroom tile for the first time

We take up golf... sign up for a Flamenco class... try to figure out Microsoft Excel... for the first time.

And it's great that we do this. Stepping out of our comfort zones is a tremendous thing. It's how we experience new things, expand our lives, discover what interests us... and what doesn't.

It's when we find out just what we can do. Which turns out to be pretty much anything. In fact, we can become pretty awesome at it all.

Just not at first.

The problem with stepping out of our comfort zone to try something new is the ridiculous, unattainable goal we attach to it... the unfair expectation that we won't just be awesome at it... but that we'll be awesome at it immediately.

Which, let's face it, is often just impossible.

And when we're not awesome immediately we get frustrated:

  • We determine we are stupid because we can't get our data numbers to crunch correctly
  • We decide we're done cooking Asian cuisine because our curry didn't come out spicy enough
  • We swear off home improvement projects forever because we can't get the tile pattern to line up perfectly

We berate ourselves horribly... quit projects before we need to... worry we are just not good enough.

To which I say this:

Don't worry... be crappy.

Instead of engaging in all of this nasty self-talk and self-doubt, we need to come to grips with reality. Which is that being crappy is a natural, often necessary step... one that leads us to being awesome.

We need to remind ourselves just how incredible it is that we are trying something new in the first place. We need to come to expect the crappy step as part of the process. We need to believe it will only be a matter of time that awesomeness will ensue. As long as we keep going.

It's all about courage when you think about it.

Courage is not about doing something new and hoping it will be perfect.

It's about doing something new and knowing it won't be. At least not right away. And to keep right on going anyway. With everything you've got.

In the end, getting to awesome may not even take all that much time.

The important thing is to know that you'll get there... to know that it's all part of the journey.

And to know that you might even get to enjoy some new, fun, unexpected moments along the way.


This week...

Try something new. Be crappy at it. Be nice to yourself when it happens.

And know that, if you keep going, you'll get to awesome in no time.

P.S. today's post is dedicated to Irene Rosenhahn... one of the most awesome ladies that ever lived.