I write an article for Biznology religiously, though not always on time, every Tuesday, because I know it’s not only normal to be bad before you’re good.
I was out at the Nationals v Orioles game last night at Oriole Park at Camden Yards with Bob Fine and told him I needed to get my blog post done the next day before I moved on to my business development duties and work with Skinny Coconut Oil and my other clients.
He looked at me incredulously and I told him that were it not from my weekly blog post, I might not have the time to get any of my thoughts, any of my experience, any of business-related content marketing done before weeks and weeks and weeks have passed. No, I am not paid for writing here, but Mike Moran, Eileen Cosenza, Madeline Moran, and Kevin Cosenza keep me in line when it comes to getting these words out on a weekly basis.
I attended Ira Glass‘ talk at Wolf Trap last Saturday and my take-away is: it’s normal to be bad before you’re good. According to Ira Glass, this is really what every successful person knows but never shares with beginners: never allow the threat of being bad prevent you from spending years being bad because:
1) What you have to say — your passion — will always persist through your rough work.
2) You will always be harder on yourself than anyone will be on you. That’s not a license to suck, it’s a challenge that as long as your writing is concise, your audio is clear, and your video is well-lit enough, then the rest of it is really a rabbit hole.
3) Don’t let your tools get in the way of your creativity. I used to be a photographer and, to be honest, real shooters use the best cameras and lenses they can easily afford. Who buys the Nikon D5 and the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II? Doctors, lawyers, and people who make loads of money but hate their actual jobs and like taking pictures. Real artists never let their tools get in the way of their art. Waiting until you can afford the most awesome WordPress install with the most amazing theme? You don’t need it. You can write anywhere for now. Stop making excuses and start doing it! Hell, only computer — where I do all of my working, writing, and editing — is a Lenovo ThinkPad X220 circa 2011. I like it, it works, it’s never let me down, and I know it so well that it is completely invisible from my process. While a Stratovarius violin may very well feel the best and sound the best, very few violinists allow not having one get in the way of their playing.
4) The expectation for high-production output is less rigorous online than it is in Hollywood or on television — in fact, “folksy” or “low-fi” content can come across as more authentic or accessible than broadcast quality production. Not to mention, what you learn by yourself in a dark room doing your very own editing and post-production work on your laptop with audio or video files will make you hireable in the real world.
5) Think of it this way: every hour of bad you get out of the way now is an hour of good you have in front of you. Waiting to get a job where you can learn on their dime and their time is a Catch-22: in thebest case, the employer gives you and opportunity and you suck at it and make them look back to their client; and, in the worst case, you’ll never get the gig in the first place because you don’t actually have any practical experience.
6) All school is is a safe, structured, and challenging environment during which you can make all sorts of mistakes without there being any real world ramifications. And then, at the other end, you’ll actually have a degree that proves you’ve accomplished something with honors as well as hopefully also offering a resume and a portfolio of your work. If you’re motivated, you can do all of this on your own. For the price of your degree, you can have all the best cameras, mics, websites, laptops, sound gear, mixing boards, and everything you could ever need — at least in 2016, where both new consumer tech and used professional tech are accessible today.
Here’s the long-form quote I was able to find on Goodreads (the emphases are mine):
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
You’re your own barrier to entry: all your favorite bloggers, writers, editors, designers, vloggers, and podcasters were bad at first. The mainstream pros got most of their bad out of their systems in school or working for other people.
We all needed to get past suck. 99% of people with vision allow the threat of failing, the failure of suck, to keep them from even trying.