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By Glenn Wohltmann


You suck. But that’s OK.

If you want to do something, be prepared to stink first. And possibly for a long time.

I learned this when I got my first job in journalism. I sucked. Every single day, I considered quitting, and I was only saved from doing that by a man much wiser than I was.

“Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly,” he told me over and over again, when I would complain about how much I hated my writing.

So I did poorly. Then, not so poorly. Then, pretty good. I know I’m not New York Times material (yet), but I continue to work on improving my writing.

Other people noticed I was improving long before I saw it in myself.

In his book, “Outliers,” Malcolm Gladwell created the 10,000 Hour Rule, claiming that it takes that long to become a master. That’s five years of working 40 hours a week.

Gladwell says the key to success for everyone from Bill Gates to The Beatles was their commitment to mastery. Our grandparents called it “stick-to-itiveness.”

It’s like that old joke: A tourist asked an old New Yorker, “How do I get to Carnegie Hall?” The New Yorker replied, “Practice, son, practice.”

While Gladwell’s claim has come under fire, his basic premise – that it takes a long time to get good at something – seems to be true.

Of course other thongs play a part. Yao Ming was a great basketball player, but he could never be a jockey, and it would be absurd for him to try.

And basic competence is important, too. One can’t write the Great American Novel without some knowledge of how the English language works. But that stuff can be learned.

To paraphrase of a quote from playwright Samuel Beckett: Try. Fail. Try Again. Fail better.

So suck at what you want to do, but stick it out.

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