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Embrace the Suck

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Some thoughts on skill acquisition, emotional development, and why you should do things you're bad at.

You haven’t changed much since you were about 10 years old. In fact, you’re not really that different, fundamentally, than you were at 5 years old. Strange though it might seem, by that time in your life, much of what makes you, well, you was already present.

Some might bristle at the idea that a lot of the building blocks of your personality were already in place just a few years after potty training; nonetheless, it’s true. While you’ve (hopefully) picked up some new skills along the way, you’re still very much the same person.

For example, stubborn kids tend to grow up to be stubborn adults—talk to any parent of a 30-year old long enough about raising kids, and you’ll eventually hear, “oh, he’s been like that his whole life!” That’s the nature part; but there’s also over the nurture aspect—over time, we learn how to manage these traits to best benefit ourselves.

As we mature, these things manifest themselves differently: in a child, stubbornness might present itself as willfulness or intractability; with a few years of development, it might be more like tenacity or determination. Regardless of changes to presentation, however, those traits are still present.

Why does this happen? Some of it, of course, is natural–whether you want to call it genetic or hereditary or whatever, a piece of who you are is there at the beginning. Thank your parents for that. The rest of it comes from your environment and your reaction to it.

Your parents are responsible for a lot of this, too (albeit in a different way), but the main determinant is you. From the time you were a child, you set yourself on a developmental course that resulted in who you are today—and that has played a hand in everything from the way you react to situations to the things you like to spend your time doing.

Which brings me to my point, or at least the start of it, because we’re going to talk about the latter today: the things you like. In specific, I want to talk about the things you like doing, and how—and why—you derive enjoyment from them.

As mentioned above, this starts in childhood. The simplest and purest example of preference is play. And in a very real way, your youthful playtime was formative for your adult perception of the world.

How Playtime Influences Perception

To give some insight, I’ll use myself as an example. While you’re likely not interested in the day-to-day thoughts, opinions and preferences of pre-adolescent Roman (then known to friends and family as John-John), you might be surprised to know that many of them have not changed much since I was about 8 years old.

Ah, the good old days. At that point in my life, I spent most of my free time looking for entertainment. I wanted to play. In that regard, most children are very similar; what differs from child to child is their game of choice.

What entertains them? What do they consider fun? What do the love to do? What do they hate? And why?

By the time I was 8 years old, I had a pretty good handle on my preferences. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like, particularly with regard to activities.

I loved reading. I loved writing. I enjoyed football. I hated basketball. I loved short races; I hated long races. I hated soccer. I enjoyed puzzles. I absolutely abhorred math. I loved video games.

What I didn’t realize at the time, of course, is that those preferences (and the strength of each) were based almost entirely on my level of skill at each activity.

  • I loved reading because I was good at it. The same goes for writing. I’ve had a natural affinity for words for as long as I can remember.
  • I loved football because I excelled at it.
  • I hated basketball because I was terrible at it.
  • I loved short races because I was exceptionally fast. I hated long ones because I got tired out of breath. (I hated soccer for the same reason.)
  • And don’t get me started on math—while my reading assignments were gleefully completed in about 10 minutes, my math homework took me an hour and my mother had to force me to do it.

And so on and so on.

The take home is this: the better I was at something, the more I enjoyed it; the more I enjoyed it, the more I did it; the more I did it, the better I got at it; the better I got at it, the more I enjoyed it…the more I did it, the better I got at it.

All told, a fairly obvious cycle that resulted in the adult version of Roman: a man who writes for a living, performs HIIT cardio instead of marathons, detests basketball, and avoids math at all costs.

This is a phenomenon that I call a skill bias—simply, you enjoy what you’re good at, and get good at things you enjoy.

Put somewhat more scientifically: being good at something leads to rewards (feelings of accomplishment, praise, etc), and that in turn encourages you to keep performing that task, which is basically practice.

The more you practice, the better you get, and the more rewards will be heaped upon you…prompting you to continue the activity further. And so on.

In psychology, this is known as a positive feedback loop, and it’s usually the result of a skill bias.

skillz

Positive Feedback Loop & Skill Bias In Action: you love what you do and do what you love–because you’re awesome at it.

Skill Bias is a pretty interesting thing, and we can all relate to it. But for many people, it starts a bit further back.

Why Do We Choose What We Choose?

Given complete freedom to choose, what will a child decide is interesting or entertaining? What will they play? This differs from child to child—contrary to me, perhaps you hated reading but loved math, for example—, but one thing that we all have in common is that we like feeling successful. In fact, we need it—Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs places “achievement” just below self-actualization.

The drive for accomplishment is a piece of evolutionary biology that’s responsible for most of history: on a cultural scale, it manifests itself in monuments and cities, not to mention wars. For adults not looking to make such a huge impact on a global scale, we seek achievement markers—everything from big houses to fancy cars to college degrees.

Getting back to my earlier point, as children we seek this out almost exclusively through play. This is an important point. Kids are more or less in control of the things they play, and so they tend to play things that make them feel successful and give them that sense of accomplishment. In the simplest terms, as a consequence of seeking this feeling of achievement, children gravitate towards the things they’re good at.

But it goes deeper than that. There’s also something I call Propensity Bias: you gravitate towards (and enjoy) not just things you’re good at, but things you are suited to be good at. That difference makes for an interest analysis.

When you’re a child, being good at something is often the result of some sort of predisposition: either a mental or physical advantage. Speaking generally, if a 10 year old is good at a given activity, it’s because he is suited to be good at it—by that point in life, natural tendencies begin to show themselves, and will impact things pretty significantly.

Out of interest, Malcolm Gladwell touched on this in his book Outliers. Using the example of youth hockey players, he pointed out that the standout players usually had birthdays earlier in the year; because they had up to a full year of physical development over other kids, of this, they were more suited to being successful at the activity.

Because of this, they were given more play time—meaning the practice to develop their skills. They received more coaching, better coaching, more encouragement, and probably derived more enjoyment.

In the long run, these players have a significant leg up on their slightly younger counterparts, even after the physical disparity levels out. Not surprisingly, these athletes tend to have longer and more successful careers.

Now, that’s a pretty specific example, so let’s make it more general.

Sticking within the context of sports, I think it’s safe to say that taller kids tend to “be better” at basketball, while stockier kids tend to “be better” at something like football. More accurately, they have a physical suitability to those sports, respectively, and are more likely to achieve success.

Obviously, skill comes into play at some point—the better you are, the more likely you are to win, of course. But how do we build skill? Practice. And what is practice in a child’s world? More play. What encourages the child to play? The positive feeling that comes with success.

If we accept that from the outset the taller child is going to have more success at basketball, we can see that he’d be more inclined to enjoy it, play more often, and get better at it.

This means that our developmental narrative of aptitude and preference is no longer just the previously pictured positive feedback loop and Skill Bias. A level deeper, it looks like this:

propensity

Propensity Bias and Positive Feedback: when your natural affinity for being awesome leads to being awesome. Science.

Ten years down the road, your excellence at that task is a combination of your original physical suitability (probably still a factor), and all of the time you’ve spent practicing. But, as I alluded to earlier the desire to practice—to play—stems, in large part, from the positive feelings you get by playing. In other words, if you’re good at something when you’re young, you’ll form a generally positive association with it. You psychologically associate the feeling of being good onto the activity itself.

Let’s go back to that basketball player. Subconsciously, the very basic emotional experience of “I’m good at basketball and that makes me feel awesome” begins to change.

emotion

Progression of Emotional Association. (Also, I am really enjoying these little charts. I hope you are, too.)

By virtue of positive experience, he will ultimately create an association between the activity and the feeling. He’ll likely carry that with him into his adult life, and will have a positive view of basketball.

Think about that for a second: the fact that you grew a bit faster than other kids 20 years ago began to affect your life profoundly, at least in terms of your interest in all of the things related to that singular activity.

And, of course, the opposite holds true as well—associations can be negative, and lifelong.

Unsuitability And Negative Associations

It may be true that based on the fact that you were a tall kid and naturally suited to be better at hoops than a (short) guy like me, maybe you like basketball to the extent that you play pick-up games on the weekend and have an active fantasy account.

I, however, was not tall. I was not naturally inclined to be good at basketball. Resultantly, I rarely had any success. Given that, I had no real desire to play—I didn’t fulfill my achievement need, so basketball fell by the wayside in favor of things that made me feel good, like reading and writing.

My lack of suitability had led to a lack of practice, which had led to a lack of skill. Compared to other kids, those who had played a lot more, I was awful at it. The feeling of being awful became uncomfortable and I didn’t like it. Because I didn’t like it, avoided the activity even more. The skill gap between other kids and myself got wider. Eventually, I stopped trying altogether.

To this day, my feelings on basketball are pretty negative. I haven’t played in years, and have no desire to. I have not accepted an offer to “go shoot some hoops” since I was 12 years old. In fact, my negative association with the sport is such that I won’t even go into a sports bar during basketball season. (I’m telling you, I was really bad as a kid. And probably worse now.)

Negative associations are powerful, and people often don’t realize they have them. They’re also pretty limiting; they keep you from doing things that might benefit you because you’re convinced you don’t like them. In all likelihood, you probably just have some emotional reason compelling you to stay away from it.

And I’m here to tell you that you should try to change this, and why.

Getting To The Point

Applications for Health and Fitness

We’ve been talking a lot about preferences for activities, and that of course leads us into fitness.

Here, positive and negative associations are huge. Chances are, you know someone who can’t stick to a schedule of any kind; the reasons for this vary widely, but many times the negative associations of having repeatedly failed paradoxically encourage this person to fail again—or, more likely, to stop trying.

When it comes to your body, I think that the things you’re bad at are just as important as those you’re good at. In many ways, they may be more important. For one thing, the things you’re bad at, those that are hard for you, have much greater potential to allow for progress, both psychologically and physically.

Psychologically, it keeps you humble. There is benefit to humility, beyond keeping your ego in check. Sure, there’s that, but doing things that are a struggle instead of those sticking to those you excel at helps you realize you’re not invincible, or immortal.

Physically, doing the things you’re bad at is a pretty good way to spot (and, hopefully, correct) weaknesses. Men in particular tend to have “favorite” exercises; this can lead to imbalances and injuries. We’ve all seen the guy who loves benching neglect back or corrective work, only to mess up his shoulder.

Even those of us with more advanced training knowledge can play favorites, leading to some problems.

A good example of this is my client, Dale. He’s a pretty advanced guy of 39 that came to be to lose some fat while he’s rehabbing an injury. Dale loves—loves—deadlifts, but his back had been killing him and he needed to stop pulling for a bit, so he figured it was a good time to get lean.

When I sent Dale his fat loss program, he emailed me back to let me know that he hates single unilateral work and thinks stuff like single leg RDLs and Bulgarian split squats are dumb. This struck me as pretty funny and reminded me of my client Colin whom I profiled in Engineering the Alpha—super strong guy who hated fat loss workouts but wanted to lose fat. Using that example and Colin’s pictures, I convinced Dale to give it a shot for month.

For exactly 30 days, he had to do this thing he hated. If, at the end of the 30 day period, he still hated them, we would go a different route. This is something I call the proficiency threshold–discussed in depth below.

Not surprisingly, Dale wasn’t very good at single leg exercises in the beginning. His balance was wonky so he had to use lower weight. Understandably, it was frustrating for him, and I’m sure the negative association was deepening and ringing alarm bells in his head.

But, he made progress, which made him happy. Additionally, he quickly found out that he had a pretty severe strength discrepancy between his right and left leg—which was contributing to the problem in his lower back. He followed the program for a month, and at the three week point decided he didn’t hate split squats anymore. Win.

Anyway, fast-forward 4 months: lots of single leg exercises and some boring stuff later, and Dale’s lost 33 pounds, we’ve addressed some imbalances, and he’s deadlifting pain free.

In Dale’s case, doing what he hated, what he was “bad” at turned out to be exactly what he needed. And it’s probably just what you need, too.

Breaking Negative Associations

During the halcyon days of my misspent youth, I was particularly fond of the idiom, “the best way to get over one woman is to get under another one.” Crass though it is, it usually worked. Similarly, I believe that the best way to break negative associations to replace them with positive ones. And I want to teach you how to do that.

I subtitled this article why you should do stuff you’re bad at. I probably should have used the word “need” instead of should. Doing stuff you’re bad at isn’t just good for you; it’s essential for you. Even when you’re talking about something as simple as fitness, doing things you suck at isn’t just good for your body, it’s an avenue to personal growth.

And when it comes to negative experiences or associations, the best thing you can do, the most effective way to make the change, is to accept the pain. Accept the suck. Get comfortable with a little discomfort. Very simply, I believe that you need to push through until you have a positive experience. As unpleasant as this sounds, I believe that it is essential for personal growth. I also believe that trial by fire is infinitely preferable to a lifetime of avoidance.

Interestingly, despite the fact that this is one of the core tenets of my worldview, it’s only recently I have begun to think about this in terms of fitness.

How To Embrace Sucking

I’ve long said that one of the most valuable skills you can possibly develop is to get good at being bad at stuff. What I mean by that is that it takes a lot of internal strength to expose yourself to failure over and over. When you try anything you’re bad at—whether you’ve failed before or have simply never tried it—that’s what’s going to happen. Developing that internal strength will change your life in ways you can’t imagine.

You need to admit that if you’re not at least okay with failure, you’re very rarely going to try anything new; and when you do, you’re not likely to stick with it. As illustrated by the first part of this article, let’s admit that often, when we dislike something, we actually dislike being bad at it—and especially dislike how that makes us feel.

I’m as prone to this as anyone; hating being bad at things was a stumbling block for me for most of my adolescent life. It wasn’t until I was about 25 that I figured out a system to overcome this, a system that allowed me to learn how to be good at being bad at things.

The Proficiency Threshold: Suck with Style for 30 Days Straight

This system, which I will now share with you, relies on a tool I call the proficiency threshold. This is the point at which you stop sucking bad enough to assess the activity honestly; the point at which you don’t hate the activity because you’re bad at it.

Also known as a suck threshold. Stick with it long enough to cross before you give up.

The only way to get over negative associations and potentially form positive ones is to have positive experiences, and the only way you can even attempt that is to decide, objectively, if you actually want to. To figure out if you really want to overcome the negative association, you have to evaluate things objectively.

And so, whenever I am faced with an option for a new activity, or something I know I’m bad at, I try to figure out a proficiency threshold. This means that I predetermine amount of time or work that needs to put into a task in order to develop baseline proficiency. The amount is usually quantified by hours, and based on recommendations from experts.

From there, I make a firm commitment to myself to get there in a month.

Once again I’ll use myself as an example. To illustrate, I’ll use something pretty much everyone knows I suck at: yoga. Probably one of the most popular YouTube videos I’ve ever created was the one below. In it, you’ll see me being led through a yoga workout by Neghar.

YouTube Preview Image

Watching that video, three things should be obvious to you: 1) I am not enjoying myself, and 2) I am really bad at yoga.

I’ve never been a yoga guy. Aspects of it appeal to me, but many of them turn me off. The ridiculousness of rich white women dropping Namaste before getting into their Range Rovers doesn’t appeal to me. The general woo-woo nature of people attempting to find their center doesn’t appeal to me. And so on.

Very clearly, I have some strange negative association not only with yoga, but also with people that practice yoga. Obviously, this isn’t really centric to my life, and I don’t think about at any time other than when I’m asked to do yoga.

Over the past few months, I’ve been getting asked a lot. Neghar does yoga, and wanted me to join her. My goal, then, was to replace my negative association with yoga with a positive one—experiencing it with her.

However, I ran into an issue: I still sucked at yoga. Which made me not enjoy it. Which made me not want to practice. The rest, you know. And so, I decided to push through.

Which poses a problem: if you suck at it, you won’t enjoy it, which can deepen the negative association. How can you make sure you create a positive association if you’re really bad at it? How can you ever get good at it?

Even if you stripped away my negative association with yoga people, I still sucked, and I still hated yoga. But, watching myself in the yoga video above, it’s impossible for me to say if I actually hate yoga because I hate yoga, or I hate yoga because I suck at yoga.

After a few conversations with other people who have been in my situation, I decided that the proficiency threshold was 10 hours: if I did 10 hours of yoga practice over the course of the month, that should allow me to build up enough skill to make an objective analysis of my feeling. I reasoned that I would be good enough to decide whether I liked or hated yoga—and if I hated it, it wouldn’t be because I was bad at it.

Two things that are important to mention. First, as I said, I spoke to people who have been in my situation—muscular men who previously struggled with yoga. I wanted to have the clearest picture in terms of the amount of practice I would need; I wanted to progress in a way that made sense for me, not someone who had been practicing for a long time.

Secondly, I wanted to practice at home. While I could have gone to classes, I know myself well enough to know that being self-conscious about being so bad would just reinforce the negative association.

Meaning I wanted a program that would allow for 10 hours of jacked guy-oriented yoga done in the privacy of my own home. For those interested, I actually found one:

Broga: Yoga for Bros, bro.

As you can tell from the name, the program was designed specifically for athletes. I’m not a competitive athlete, but like all active people, I struggle from a few of the same problems that athletes do. On top of that, it was written by a friend of mine, so I was able to trust it. That helped.

You might be able to guess what happened. That was about two months ago, and I’m happy to say I don’t hate yoga anymore. 

Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t love yoga, and I’ll never be a yogi. But I don’t hate it, either. If I’m in the right mood, I can get into it; so while you probably won’t find me posting pictures of handstand practice on Instagram, you might actually see me going to a class and attempting new moves. Moreover, my back feels looser, my hammies are happy, and there’s one less thing in the world that causes me stress.

 

Enlightenment? 

At this point, I’m sure I could drop some cliché about getting out of your comfort zone, but I’d rather give you some deeper insight.

My experience with yoga, and thinking about all of this of this has led me to a pretty profound conclusion: we choose to ignore a lot of awesome stuff in the world.

It’s not that we don’t know things—it’s that we know them and ignore them anyway. If you don’t go out of your way to make changes and experience new things, you will very likely sit in a sort of stasis. You’ll have the same opinions you had when you were 5; keep building on the same skillsets you’ve been developing since you were 10.

We ignore the things around us because they don’t give us immediate pleasure, because we have to work for the. And because of that, we hold ourselves back.

For example, I know that basketball isn’t a bad sport; I also know I could get reasonably proficient at it if I dedicate myself to it for a month. I’ve just always chosen to ignore it, because I have some stupid childhood issue with it. Perhaps, if I had embraced the suck long ago, I’d be out shooting hoops and loving every minute of it. Who knows?

In much the same way, I’ve always known that yoga had a myriad of advantages, and that I could benefit from it. I just chose to ignore it. Well, no longer. I’m going to keep doing yoga, and keep growing from it.

And, now that I’m fully in the throes of appreciation, I want to share that with you.

So, SOUND OFF – what do YOU suck at? Is it yoga? Oly lifting? Dancing? Fashion. Leave your WORST one below!

About the Author

John Romaniello is a level 70 orc wizard who spends his days lifting heavy shit and his nights fighting crime. When not doing that, he serves as the Chief Bro King of the Roman Empire and Executive Editor here on RFS. You can read his articles here, and rants on Facebook.

  • Azura

    This is one of the best articles I’ve ever read.

  • Tony

    http://www.t-nation.com/powerful-words/embrace-the-suck – A site you’ve written for before has recently put up a similar article with the same title…did they rip you off a little?

  • Myke Macapinlac

    John,

    This post definitely reminds me of one of my all time favourite books by Carol Dweck: Mindset the Psychology of Success. For a long time, I only liked doing things that I was really good at because I wanted to be praise for it and get external validation.

    I like how you conveyed the idea presented in Carol’s book but in a more strategic way. The graphs really nailed your points!

    Side note: My first name is John as well and we had the same nickname growing up. I thought “john-john” was just a Filipino thing! Haha!

  • Faz Raza

    There need to be more fervor and compassion in the post. I would have loved the post had it contain some degree of vigor!

  • Jeff

    For me, basketball is exactly something that I’ve avoided, especially really getting into it. I can practice and join a game occasionally, but there are a lot of negative associations with playing in a game.

    Swimming is one of those things where I’ve crossed the suck-threshold, and now I’m at a crossroads of whether to really try new techniques or go on a plateau.

  • Muria

    Great article, Roman! I definitely need to work on the things I suck at. It’s one of the reasons I’m planning on homeschooling my kids with a huge PE component. Maybe if I spend a lot of time playing sports with my kids, I won’t suck so bad at them.

    I tried an athletic yoga routine before and hated it. What did I hate about it? The woman who led it could not count even reps. I had no idea how anal I was about it until I was faced with someone who did not count the same number of repetitions on ANY of the exercises. I’ve had plenty of indicators that I should start doing yoga (any number of foot problems that can be traced to improper alignment due to tight muscles from sitting for too much of my life). I’d like to give this one a try (the price is right, the amount of time it takes is right). Can you tell me if the video is something I’m going to be able to use? Or am I going to have to ask for a refund because my brain starts screaming after the third exercise in a row of uneven reps?

  • Naomi Sandoval

    I seriously agree you should do things at which you suck. So for me, I make myself do some cardio or HIIT from time to time but I pretty much remain a hater.

    Now yoga, I don’t do but I also don’t suck. I got a deal for a 1 month hot yoga membership and had to quit because I am already flexible and I kept injuring myself. Not the point at all! Yoga seems like more of a “should” for men, who tend to be far less flexible. I’m sticking with picking up heavy stuff and putting it back (usually) where I found it.

  • Lou

    Great article, Roman. I’m sure I’ve walked away from a lot of things that could have been rewarding.
    For me, it’s intense cardio. HIIT was rough the first couple of times I did it, but I got a lot better. I should try a spin class.

  • Mike R

    Your yoga is my swim. Trying not to hate it long enough to cover a mile.

  • Amanda Kavner

    This is a fantastic article. I am a high school science teacher and I cannot even tell you how often I tell students not to be afraid of a wrong answer! You’re allowed to be wrong or “suck” if you are learning. What I do not accept is someone not trying or answering “I don’t know” to an answer in class.

    Thank you Roman, this article has a lot of application into life and training!

  • Gus

    Man, if you convince me to try yoga you can consider yourself the real life superhero lol…

  • Mike

    Roman great article love your book and I’m on phase 2 already. Your workouts are truly humbling . I suck at losing the last bit of body fat I have . I’m puting all my stock into Alpha 2.0 im great at fasting I truly suck at calorie counting.

  • Leslie

    Hi Roman, thanks for sharing this useful message.

    Leslie

  • Monica

    Great article! I also love IF 101/102. Finally permission to skip breakfast! I’ve choked it down most of my life because it’s supposed to be “good” for you. I have zero appetite in the morning. This is such good news…I think I’m going to cry…

    Thank You!!!

  • Tyler Adrian

    Roman,

    Great blog. Good insight into being open minded and trying new things. My girl friend is a practicing yogi as well. Being part of her yoga life is very important to her as well. Lucky for us right.

    I suck at waking up early. I moderately suck at yoga. Like most bros out there really suck at opening up to the spiritual side of yoga, the chakras, etc. Your latest blog enticed me to participate in these activities and really give them the college try that they deserve.
    Thanks Roman.

  • Amanda Lampton

    Great article and a good read, as always.

    I suck at squatting and my conditioning is shit, so I found a good Crossfit box to work on my conditioning and I’m about to transition to a squat heavy training cycle. Fun times. :)

  • H@rry

    So I am not the only one in here :D

  • Drew Curtis

    I HATE writing. In college I would stay up all night procrastinating about writing papers, even really short papers. I was always hyper critical of what I wrote, so I’d write a couple words, backspace, write a couple words, backspace. It was terrible. I did eventually graduate, but now I’m building websites and writing articles is where I stop. Guess I should just give it an honest try and write 30 articles in 30 days…

  • Roland

    It never bothered me if i was bad at something, I’m not self conscious, i can laugh at myself at all times, that’s the secret. Although when I play with guys who hate playing with someone who’s bad, that’s another story, but as long as everyone have fun it’s ok. Of course there are things I don’t like, but thats not because I’m bad at doing them.

  • stk18128

    I suck at long distance running that is why I am doing my third ultra marathon in july hoping to run 75 miles.

  • Lily

    I suck at drawing. I really want to be good but it’s bad so I just do nothing about it. Signed up for a class and never went, because “they all gonna laugh at” me :)
    Thank you. I will give it a shot.

  • Andrew

    I always make a list of things I want to learn over the year. Last year was drawing and dance. This year was the core lifts (deadlift, cleans, et al) and writing. Thing is I find myself in June already done. Guess I should push myself harder. :)

  • Anneli Miller

    Roman, good thoughts. I hated running longer distances when I was a child. I preferred sprints. After developing chronic bronchitis, I began to walk and run. I fell in love with running because I began to heal, to breathe better and to feel better. Finally, I ended up running a marathon and totally enjoyed the experience. Swimming was a similar issue. After tackling it, I worked up to swimming laps and saw further increase in my health. Today, I am going to sit down and assess what I hate and therefore avoid, what I am bad at and pick one area to work on. Limiting myself so much has become odious to me. The comfort zone has become a cage. Thank you for this article!

  • Tannis

    I suck at running, so I started a run program today. Before I even read the article. Serendipity, man, serendipity :D

  • deansomerset

    Would it be possible to find the same level of affinity (or at least a dissipation of distain) if you were to wear nothing but Tom’s shoes for a month or two?

    • JuiCy

      lol

    • A question to which the answer has eluded both scientists and philosophers.

      • deansomerset

        A reply without a response. Well played, you wordsmith you.

  • Roman, this was a GREAT article. I was loving on the graphs / charts you made and then you had to say “I’m loving these charts…” I busted out laughing at that point. I’m fairly opposite of you, I’m a numbers guy. Always have been. So if you want to “speak” to me, through out numbers or graphs or charts! And I’ve pretty much ALWAYS hated writing (used to hate reading, but I sort of applied your above method and now I love it).
    One of the 2 most embarrassing instances of my life (thinking about it still makes me cringe and I’m 34 now) happened when I was 9 and 13. I played sports. Correction, I was so freaking scared of being in front of people I stood on a baseball field petrified in fear and never swung at a single pitch. For two seasons, once at 9 and once at 13 (I thought at 13 I was over the fear… NOPE!) I was mortified every time I went to play ball. At practice I did fine. I’d swing and actually connect. But at game time… PETRIFIED.
    Long story short, I decided to not let this fear / memory control my life. I took some speech classes, joined a Toast Masters club, and have given various presentations on down the road. I’ve actually improved my public speaking to the point that when I do give a presentation or a talk, people say things like, “Wow. You’re naturally gifted.” “That’s a God given talent.” Etc…
    Little do most people know that it’s really me KICKING FEAR IN THE BALLS AND SPITTING ON HIM WHEN HE’S DOWN!
    ~Ivan

  • David

    I suck at being healthy. Focussing on better nutrition, training and sleeping to improve my health and life overall.
    Loved Engineering the Alpha, will be reading and re-reading it for a long time.
    Thanks

  • PaulGabrielMihalescu

    Had to re-read this today to better understand it.

    I was naturally inclined to always tackle my weaknesses since I was young–guess it was an insecurity thing. One of my laws was to tackle 3 aspects I sucked in per year (big ones, like a language, social discomfort, fashion, philosophy, etc…) and develop them to awesome levels.

    Glad to say over the past 8 years, I probably developed a handful of skillsets that serve me until this day. Less needed to say, all the skills developped over the year greatly influenced the success I live today. It’s a huge broner that anybody should incorporate.

    Awesome post, quality reading, A+++ writer
    Wouldreadagain/10

  • Shawn

    At first I started to just skim this post, thinking is was just a “broaden your horizons and you will emerge from your egocentric cocoon a bright butterfly” pep talk. Eh. I’d rather read about Game of Thrones, because “of course” most of us reading this would consider ourselves open-minded individuals willing to push ourselves. We’re following a training/self-improvement/lifestyle writer to obtain new ways of achieving our goals (and at times to be entertained). Then when I hit the part about Dale I stopped and reread. I was sucking at doing something I wasn’t inclined to do, which was to think about how much this post was relevant to me. I’m 3 weeks into a new program that includes doing many things I don’t like to do (Hi, Roman) because they fall outside my skill set. But I’ve been forcing myself to go all in because if doing primarily only what I liked worked — I wouldn’t have sort out a new path. In training or any aspect of life, effectuating change means implementing changes; changes in behavior and mindset beget changes in results. But how many people I know, myself included, who are too often reluctant to honestly recognize what they are not good at and then actually, fully pursue that skill set. Suck now. Awesome later.

  • Neghar Fonooni

    I told you so. :)

  • Alexandre Lantagne

    Thanks Roman. I am now preparing to run my bi-weekly 5K, which I really suck at =)

  • Ivan

    The yoga example was fun, but you still don’t play basketball. Shouldn’t that have been what you tried? Also, do you have any examples of trying something for over 10 hours, still being bad, and still feeling terrible and hating it? What do you do then?

    • I’ve gotten decent enough at basketball to know that I actually don’t enjoy the sport. But, I can watch on tv now, so that’s something.

  • Anthony

    I’ve always hated lifts like clean and jerk. Lifts that make you throw lots of weight over your head. Idk, just freaks me out having all that weight over my head. I always fear I might fall backwards. Lol

    It sucks because I’m a big proponent of Olympic lifts like squat, deadlift. I love almost all lifts (single limb lifts, etc) I jus have a downright fear of clean and jerk like lifting. I would like to be good at it because the benefits it offers.

  • Deborah Heke

    Thanks Roman. I always enjoy your articles but this one’s especially right up my alley for where I am in my training… and life. I like to think that I live by these principles most of the time but sometimes just need a little reminder to embrace the suck. Thanks for the reminder. I might even be inspired to jump on the treadmill after this – – – like actually jump on it because I hate running but love basketball :)