Learn to “Embrace the Suck”

Dear Nathan,

You don’t know it but this week I’ve been working on something called the “20x Your Potential” challenge.  To keep it short, every day this week I’m putting myself through a single challenge that, collectively, are meant to help me break through my mental barriers and see myself as having much more potential to succeed than I ever thought possible.

Yesterday I did 1000 push ups.  No kidding.  That was a painful but eye-opening experience.

Today, I’m working on how to “Embrace the Suck”.  I’m familiar with the concept as I heard it mentioned by our Drill Instructors while I was in boot camp and the USMC school of infantry.  In essence, it’s about accepting the reality of the most difficult situations we find ourselves in, and focusing on controlling our mind and body to better manage how we act and react.

Another way to think about it: sometimes situations in life really suck.  Don’t run from the suck.  Embrace it and learn from it and its power over you diminishes.

So today I’m working through a set of questions to help me Embrace the Suck.  Here are the questions, and my answers.  I’ll be interested in reviewing my answers below with you after you’re old enough to read and appreciate these posts.  What will my life be like then, I wonder?  What will our lives be like?

Here goes.

(All questions below come directly from “20x Your Potential – Embrace the Suck“)

Your 6-step challenge:

STEP 1: Think of your “someday” goal. We all have them. Maybe someday you want to make a million dollars. Maybe you want to start a business. Maybe you want to visit every continent. We ALL have the goals that we’ve thought, “that’d be nice.”

What’s my someday goal?  I’m a coach, a developer of people, and a leader in my field.  I work with individuals and organizations to help them tackle their most difficult challenges through a combination of individual and group coaching, working through solutioning on real gut-wrenching challenges while also helping participants build their minds and bodies in the process.  The idea is that helping build leaders requires building the whole person, not just improving knowledge and skill sets.  Summarized I call it “becoming a team of leaders through doing rather than talking about doing.”  I want to run this business both in live sessions (ideally in my own stand-alone retreat on a mountainside somewhere [isn’t THAT specific!] and online through web-based coaching, mentoring, community-based learning, books and lessons.  I want this  vision to be a reality within the next 10 years (by 2026).


STEP 2: Visualize your goal or problem in detail. What does it look like? What do you feel like? What are the tastes, sounds, and smells? (For me, this was showing up to host an event where nobody came. I felt like a vacuum had sucked all the air out of the room.)

This is a tough one to write down, but let me try to isolate and describe one picture in my mind: I’m working with a group of say 15 to 20 participants, along with a few other coaches, in a warehouse-type structure.  We’re in a school circle discussing an approach to a particular challenge this group is facing.  The group then splits into smaller teams to work on their part of the challenge.  Coaches are working with each group to guide them through the process.  The warehouse space is filled with light, but rather than looking like a big training room with desks and chairs, it’s like a combination of workshop / Google-esque workspace / prototyping laboratory.  It’s stimulating beyond belief and takes participants into a whole new domain from which to perceive and approach their challenge.

STEP 3: Listen for your mind to start telling you why you can’t do this. “This isn’t the right time.” “I’m not the kind of person who…” “She can do it, but I don’t have…” When you hear it, acknowledge it, and redirect your thoughts to positive ones, “If this were possible, what would it take?” “If I were perfect, what would I do?”

Why I can’t do this – negative self talk: “Who the hell am I to do this?” “What special qualifications do I have?”  “Who will work with me on this?”  “Who will trust me through this process?”  “Where will I find coaches to share my vision and work with me on this?”  “What will clients think?”  “Will they buy the whole idea, or run the other direction?”  “Where will I get the money?”  “How do I start?”

Redirect: “If this were possible and people bought into it, what would it take to start?” (A: one adventurous client, one adventurous coach to help me, and a rented space)  “If I had no fear and an unshakable bias for action, what would I do?” (A: Draft a plan, sanity test it with some creative listeners whom I trust, refine it, build the framework for how the process would work, scenario-plan it, recruit a young, hungry coach to help me, find a client (maybe a non-profit with lots of ambition but no $$) to pilot test it.  Run it.  Observe results,  Improve it.  Run it again until it’s built for prime time.)

STEP 4: Embrace the suck. This is where most of us tend to shut down because we’re uncomfortable. We’re uncomfortable about what we’re asking of ourselves. So instead of working through it, we file the goal away to deal with it “later” — the equivalent of ringing the bell to quit, since “later” means “never.”

This is where having a good job and steady pay check can be a burden.  It can help during the early planning process, but letting go of that to forge ahead with my dream is tough.  I did it before when I was younger, but back then it was just me.  Now it’s mommy, you and me.  Rationally I know this is a bullshit excuse, but it feels real.  In my mind there is a cost to failure.  it may be temporary but it has the potential to hurt badly.  This is where my fear kicks in.  This is where I have to “Embrace the Suck.”

STEP 5: Once you have a clear picture of your goal, eliminate the noise by using Commander Divine’s box breathing technique for 12 minutes. (Click here for even more detailed instructions.) I warn you, 12 minutes will seem like an eternity.

DONE!  Wow – do this now.  What did it feel like?  By the end I felt relaxed, peaceful, clear of mind, and my fingers were tingling.

STEP 6: After 12 minutes, take out a piece of paper and write out how you feel about your goal or problem with your mind clear. Then come up with ONE step you can take TODAY. It could be to make a phone call or buy a book or even writing out the problem and it’s components. You MUST take at least one physical action.

It’s doable.  Very doable.  While doing the exercise I could see it clearly in my mind.  The location, the people involved, the process, the energy.  Of course some questions popped into my mind intermittently, for example, “How much should I charge clients for this?”  and “What development do I need to put myself through to be able to make this happen?”  Practical I suppose, but distractions given the larger goal.

What am I going to do today?  Draft out the details around the goal and the steps necessary.  Outline the process, the potential impact of this kind of business and mission, and the difficulties standing in the way.  Write it down and make it real.  Take the idea from the realm of wishes and give it some actual physical existence, even if only on paper.

So there you go.  This has been an amazing process for me and something I want to repeat and encourage others to do.  I want you to try it too, son.

Go on, do it right now.  I’ll wait. :)

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