Whatever you are trying to learn. Whatever you are trying to become. If you are not willing to be bad at it first, you will never get good.
- As a writer, you need to write bad articles before they get good.
- As a programmer, you need to write bad code before it gets good.
- As an entrepreneur, you need to build bad products before they get good.
Everybody starts terrible and only gets better with practice. The creators you admire did too. Remember that.
The problem is, we don’t see the bad work of our heroes. We found them in their 6th, 12th, or 30th year, so it feels like they were good all along.
But it’s just an illusion. They had to work through their mediocrity and get better with repetition like everybody else.
Here are a few things that might help you keep chewing through your mediocrity while you try to improve.
Compete only with yourself
The best thing about the internet is that you can instantly find the greatest works of your craft and learn from them.
The worst thing about having the internet is that you can instantly find the greatest works of your craft and feel like shit compared to them.
Don’t compare yourself with others. They are somewhere else on their journey.
Focus only on being better than you were yesterday. Seeing your progress, however small, will give you the momentum you need to push on.
I know, easier said than done. I’m saying it like I could do it. Heh.
Judge your work kindly
Even “not as great” work can be useful to someone. Just because you think it should be better doesn’t mean others won’t like your work.
I keep getting surprised whenever somebody tells me which piece of my writing is their favorite.
Who knew? Different people like different things. Shocker.
Being critical only helps you learn if it doesn’t kill your ideas before you’ve created anything.
Try your best but be kind to your work. You never know what somebody else will like.
Keep moving at all costs
Don’t get stuck.
Big complicated projects are a hideaway from showing your work to people. It gives you the excuse to say: “Oh yeah, I’m working on this big project right now."
Then, after a year, you’re working on another “big project” and then another. You are always working but never finish anything, forever avoiding the fear of being judged.
It’s a trap. Find a way to keep moving faster. Ship your work into the world regularly, ideally on a schedule.
In my case, these weekly reflections are the best thing that ever happened to my writing. Sure, they are not the best of my work (I write them quickly and publish on the same day), but they taught me to finish something and move on. That’s priceless to anyone who wants to create anything.
Learn to finish things on a schedule to keep moving.
Enjoy the process
This is the most powerful cheat code in the game. Use it.
Unless you enjoy what you’re doing, it’s going to be impossible to keep going long enough to become good.
Motivation, inspiration, energy, it all comes from the simple joy of doing the work you want to do right now.
You’re struggling, sure. But as long as you’re enjoying the hell out of it, nothing can stop you from getting good eventually.
If I didn’t enjoy the process, I would quit writing a thousand times already.
But let’s look at an example from outside of writing: Last Tuesday, me and a friend tried doing a podcast by recording our Zoom session and sharing it with our friends. (It’s here, but it’s in Czech.)
We made the process frictionless and fun: No complicated intros, no jingles, no editing. Just us talking about something we both enjoy.
Is it good? Nah. Probably no.
Does it matter? Not at all. We are testing the waters: Are we enjoying this? Is this something we want to keep doing?
Because we know that if we enjoy the process, the rest will take care of itself.
When you find joy in doing the work, being bad won’t stop you from getting good.