Wednesday, March 02, 2011


Today, I overheard someone point out that Elvis Presley only got a ‘C’ in high school music class.

I hate these so called ‘facts’. For one, the vast majority of them just aren’t true. For example the popular belief that Einstein failed high school math simply isn’t true.

But, for me, the worst thing is that the people who like to spout these things are really saying “Everyone says I suck at (activity), but everyone said (famous successful person) sucked at it too…so I’m just like them and the reason everyone says I suck is because they’re either jealous or just don’t ‘get’ me.”

They forget one thing. The people these facts are usually about are legends who were way ahead of their time. For example, people like Elvis or The Beatles or Einstein were geniuses. They broke new ground and did things no one had ever done before. They were one-in-a-million people. They also sucked when they were starting out.

Chances are, if someone tells you your guitar playing sounds like a cat with a sewn up asshole, or your painting looks like a clown vomited on the canvas... you probably suck. It’s not that you’re ahead of your time, or that people don’t ‘get’ you…it’s that you suck at whatever you’re trying.

Now, I know that this all sounds very cynical, and I’m not sure who this post is actually for because everyone who thinks they’re ‘too awesome to be understood’ will probably agree with everything I’m saying, but also believe that none of what I’m saying actually applies to them: Their friend who sucks at drawing, but tells everyone that they just don’t get ‘his style’ actually sucks…but the stuff they create is genius work that’s just way ahead of its time.

Let me give everyone a bit of advice:

Accept that you suck.

Here’s the thing. Once you accept that you suck, once you understand your work in any field could do with a lot improvement…you’ll actually start to get better.

For example, a few years ago I started sketching on a regular basis. I thought I was really, really good. In fact, I thought I was so good that I posted some work online in an art forum.

Nearly everyone in that forum told me I sucked. Maybe not in those exact words (although some absolutely did), but a good few people told me why my work sucked, pointed out errors, gave me links to examples and tutorials.

I accepted that I sucked at drawing and set out to get better. A few years on, my artwork still sucks…but it sucks a lot less. In fact, it sucked so much less that, last year, someone on eBay was willing to pay me $75 for one of my ink drawings.

But I know, that in the grand scheme of things, my work still sucks, that when held up next to the work of the artists I admire, it’s not good enough.

…and because I accept it’s not good enough, because I accept that I’m a novice artist, because I accept that I suck… I know that by this time next year, my artwork will suck even less.

Now let me give you another example.

I went all the way through school with a kid who I won’t name to protect the ignorant. At age 10, he was pretty good at cartooning, and decided then and there that he was the greatest artist who ever lived. If anyone, including art teachers, critiqued his work with anything less than abject praise, he would flip out. He’d tell them that they didn’t understand his ‘style’, that they didn’t ‘get it’…and point out that people said that Picasso’s work was crap or that no-one liked Van Gogh’s paintings either.

So by the time he left high school at 16, his artwork looked exactly the same as it did when he was 10. He was also outraged when he couldn’t get into Art School because he didn’t have the grades and no colleges thought his work was high enough standard to accept him.

Let me put it another way:

Stop using excuses, accept that you suck and there’s a very good chance that you’ll eventually improve enough to where you don’t suck.

Or, keep telling yourself that people don’t understand you, don’t get you or don’t understand your style and suck for the rest of your life, getting bitter because no-one understands your genius.

Here’s the truth:

The first time you try anything you’re going to suck at it. It’s inevitable and unavoidable. Accept it, improve and move on.

The day you decide your work is flawless is the day you stop getting any better.

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