You may have heard the expression “Embrace the Suck” before, but what does it really mean? Should we just love doing sucky things simply because they suck?
No, not at all!
Doing things that are unpleasant, painful, or perhaps even harmful only because they suck doesn’t make you tough: It makes you dumb! I am sure that by now you have discovered this fact on your own, either by doing some dumb stuff yourself, or watching other people’s dumbness in action.
Learning to “Embrace the Suck” implies that at the end of your journey there is something to gain, some growth occurs, and you improve in one way or another. I made this diagram to help illustrate this point:
Here is why you have to “Embrace the Suck”
Using the diagram above, let’s look at what usually happens when someone contemplates making a big change. That dotted red line is where they are right now, before the change. The top of the curve on the right is where they want to be (the goal). In the very beginning, just by making little changes, things seem to get a little better. Right away, that curve goes up just slightly because right at the start things are often easy and fun, and you feel like you’re doing something just by taking action.
But then all of a sudden things get hard. Real work needs to be done, and you find yourself slipping down into the valley of suck. Seeing this coming, about 90% of people will retreat back to the safety of their mediocre existence, and just live on that red dotted line again. These are the people who stop doing something the moment it becomes even a little difficult or uncomfortable. By avoiding the suck, they are doomed to never change.
If you dive into The Valley of Suck, you’ll find that it is a confusing, frustrating, and often painful place to be. There are a few other people down here with you…some are just wandering around in a daze, others are sinking to the bottom of Suck Lake, never to be seen again. One fellow seems to be laughing however! He must be mad…you should probably stay away from him.
But wait, you notice that this crazy-looking gentleman is slowly moving away from everybody else. He is sweating more and has a strange smile on his face. A very odd chap indeed! After a few weeks, you realize you haven’t seen this guy in the valley in a few days. You wonder what happened to him? You ask someone else in the valley with you and with a confused look they say, “What! Who? Who are you? Stop bothering me, I’m busy!”
Then one day, off in the distance you see him! Or at least you think you see him…you can only make out a little moving speck on the side of the nearby mountain. You get closer: Yes, it’s him! He looks like he is climbing! He is sweating more than ever, but his smile looks less crazy and more happy now. You follow him. It’s hard to move in the valley and you get lost more than once, but you make sure never to lose sight of him. Eventually you find the foot of the mountain and start climbing up…
“The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”-Marcus Aurelius
Improvement is not a goal, it is a process.
In life, there is no way to get from point A to point G without going through points B, C, D, E, and F. There are no shortcuts. You must embrace the entire process if you want to achieve growth. You cannot just focus on the end result and deny the pain that comes with change. That is called dreaming, and when you wake up from a dream you realize you are still in your bed, exactly where you were when you fell asleep last night.
Repeatedly doing what we are comfortable with and good at doesn’t cause growth and change, it leads to stagnation. If you’ve been comfortably walking that same 1.5 mile route in your neighborhood three days a week for the last few months but don’t understand why you are not losing any weight, it’s because this activity is not a challenge for you anymore. You’re just walking circles at the edge of The Valley of Suck, afraid to venture in.
You need to have the expectation that things will be hard for a while before they are easy again. You need to go towards the pain willingly and know that it is coming and that there is no way to escape it, because escaping the pain is escaping the growth: They’re two sides of the same coin. This is why you must learn to embrace the suck!
Uncertainty and difficulty are signs that change is happening. Running towards whatever action seems the most difficult or intimidating to you is the path of progress. When you are faced with the question of which way to go, of which choice to make, choose the option that makes you the most uncomfortable and it will lead you right to where you really want to be.
You can’t simply jump from “where you are right now” to “where you want to be.” You’ll never make it, and you will plummet down into The Valley of Suck so hard that you will only think about the fastest way to scramble out of there. You’ll retreat to the safety of where you came from and never reach “where you want to be.” Instead, you need to willingly descend into the valley, slog it out with the monsters in there, deal with the confusion and the pain, and find your way to the other side to make the slow climb to greatness!
Some people seem to live their whole lives in The Valley of Suck, never able to find their way out, stuck wandering around in that chasm forever. Seems like a horrible way to live, but at least they’re trying to find their way. They still have a chance to make it to the other side.
In fact, I was down in the The Valley of Suck recently and I asked a few of those people down there how they’re doing. Most people ignored me, but one woman was kind enough to talk. Can you believe that she told me she is doing great! She even said that she pities those poor souls up there who are comfortably drifting through life without a purpose or a challenge, just biding their time and waiting to die. She actually told me that she feels bad for those sad fools, those people who never had the guts to venture down into the valley in the first place…