Embrace The Suck: What Jiu-Jitsu, Learning Guitar, And Exam IFM Has Taught Me About Life

“Wow! I suck.”

This statement is both thought and uttered often. Those with a growth mindset, who understand what it takes to continuously improve, embrace the idea. The moment that we think or believe “Wow! I’m awesome,” is when we stop improving. Our mindset becomes fixed, and we lose all forward momentum.

Exam IFM: Investment and Financial Markets, is one of many exams given by the Society of Actuaries that provide a path to becoming an Associate in the Society of Actuaries (ASA).  I’m taking this on November 20th and in the final stretch of my intense study.

Finishing a third mock exam through Coaching Actuaries, I found out I had did a little worse than the first two. This could potentially be defeating. However, I understood that the first mock exam was at an easier level, the second at a level higher, and the third even higher still. They keep increasing the difficulty, which makes it seem that you’re making no progress.

Jiu-Jitsu is very similar. Although the classes and the technique we learn is not getting any more difficult, each of my teammates are getting better and better at their technique, and stronger and stronger with each class.  When you roll with these teammates and they roll with you, it can really seem like we’re not getting any better.  The truth is we’re all getting better incrementally.

Embrace the suck.

What I mean by that is to embrace the illusion of your suckiness, because you are getting better.

In early August I began learning how to play the guitar using Justin Guitar. It has been going well. Earlier last week, however, was the lesson on the F chord. It felt like I had just picked up the guitar for the first time.

I embraced the suck, and persisted in getting my fingers in the right place. After several days, I’m still nowhere near being able to play the full F chord with the bass string. I’m playing the simpler version with 5 strings which is challenge enough.

What usually happens when I learn something new with the guitar each day, is that I learn about at least two things that I need to learn and practice.  To get a little mathematical now, that means that if we take that bare minimum value of only learning two new things that we don’t know each time we learn one new thing, then the amount of “things” we know that we don’t know will always be one greater than the amount of “things” we do know.

This, too, can be defeating. It can be even more defeating when we try and think about all the things that we don’t even know we don’t know.  Oh, my!

The same is true in jiu-jitsu. Each time I learn and begin practicing a technique, I learn about a few others that I will need to practice in the future. It never ends.

Embrace the suck.

In this case, I mean the illusion that you suck even more than you did previously since the quantity that you know you don’t know increases faster than the quantity that you do know.

Life in general is a series of these moments. Wow! We all really suck. You can let it stop you in your tracks, or you can embrace it and let it propel you to the next level.

I say we all embrace the suck, and level up.

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