Not just a linkbait headline. I seriously mean it. If you’re not wealthy by your chosen profession,
if you’re not regarded as a top leader in your field, if your peers don’t want to lick you alive,
you suck. Because there’s no middle-ground anymore. There’s no good enough anymore.
I know, this sucks.
I know this, because I suck.
Here’s where I’m coming from :
I talk with a lot of passionate, creative peeps. Either through my consulting or meeting them in offline life. And although they come from different nations and backgrounds, they almost always share the same delusion :
They think they are good. Enough.
They think good enough is the way to go, but good enough is…not good enough.
I know people who are good enough – they survive, but they don’t thrive.
They think they create kick-ass work, but they don’t, they create merely gooood work.
But in today’s world, good is another word for loser.
When I was in my early twenties and started out with my creative career, I thought I was
creating kick-ass work as well. Seriously. Friends and family told me : Mars, you’re incredibly talented.
You are going places. Claps here, claps there, claps everywhere.
Needless to say, my ego was blasting off. Up, up to the sky ! Mars, l’ increible. But I wasn’t
making much money, and one day I figured out why.
The day I met an exchange student who showed me his illustration and design work.
My ego flushed down the toilet on speed tap. Flush forward fast. The guy was about 8 years younger, still in his teens, and his style was already smoking mine like a tuna roll sandwich. Meh.
He told me to check out his peers, also teenagers, and that further burned the remnants
of my ego. I was nowhere near their level, despite what friends and family said. My bubble burst.
Captain Depression visited me, and he looked like staying for a while. Shit.
Later that day, I slipped into my bed and cried. For hours.
“I’m done for.” is what I mumbled, while pulling the blanket over my head.
Talking about the stormy night of my soul.
Truth is, I hadn’t felt that depressive in years before.
Truth is, it was the turning point of my life.
The next day, I swore : forget about being good. Forget about being good in your perimeter.
If there’s a “foreigner” eating your career brunch, you need to hustle.
I realized how much I actually sucked on a global level. Knowledge of anatomy ? Barely.
Color wheel comprehension ? A funny joke. General composition ? Mediocre at best.
Over design ass-kickery ? Still in the works. Uh.
And that was the day I started practicing and honing my skills like a mad man.
I learned more about my craft in a year than I did in the decade before.
I sucked, and that was the greatest revelation of my life.
Truth is, you are not as good as you think you are. Truth is, you probably suck at some level.
Don’t fret, this the beginning of a grrreat journey.
Here’s how you unsuck yourself
But Mars, why are you smashing my ego ? Why are you kicking me when I’m already on the ground,
screaming for help ?
Because you need it.
Call it the dark night of the soul. Call it rebirth. Whatever.
Let’s move from sucky to skilly, right now.
In fact, skill can be based on the notorious four levels of conscious competence :
Level 1 – Unconscious Incompetence (You Don’t Know that You Don’t Know)
Meaning : You have no clue about your skill, and worse, you don’t even know that you’re clueless. Irghs.
Level 2 – Conscious Incompetence (You Know that You Don’t Know)
You have not much clue about your skill, but you KNOW that you’re almost clueless.
Level 3 – Conscious Competence (You Know that You Know)
You know your subject and are skilled, but you need conscious effort and lots of concentration.
Level 4 – Unconscious Competence (You Don’t Know that You Know – It Just Seems Easy!)
You’re a goddamn maverick with Jedi-skills. It’s a habit now – you don’t even have to think about it. Automation, baby. No effort, it’s easy as 1-2-3.
Reality check :
Most creative people (98% of the ones I meet) are stuck on level 1 – they are clueless, and they don’t even know that they are clueless. They think they’re much better than they actually are, and wonder why they still don’t thrive. That’s a dangerous place to be.
But this is not a make-you-feel-bad post, this is a shatter-your-ego-and-build-it-up-from-the-ground post.
So, here’s the recipe that can inspire you from suckyness to grrrreatness.
Below are the steps that I personally follow to build my own remark-ability.
Warning : it will hurt.
1) Epic Rival check.
Check out the best, and I mean the BEST players in your industry.
See how much money they make
See how their style trumps yours by a landslide
see how skillful they are compared to you
And then feel how it crushes your self-deception.
You have to compare yourself to them till it hurts. Ouchie times three. Like alcohol poured on your wound. The hurt factor matters a lot.
You will suddenly see your shortcomings, and what you have to do to raise up your game.
There’s no growth in comfort. Being frustrated and angered is a great place to build your skill.
2) Ask for a slap in the face.
Forget about asking “what do you think of (include your work here).”
Most people are polite by nature and will give you a BS answer.
Your most useless critics ? Friends and family. I call them bubble-builders.
They bubble you up all cushy and mushy, which clouds your critical self-reflection. Well-intended, but utterly useless and ultimately self-defeating.
Never ask anyone, especially not your close ones, how they like your work. The answer will almost always be a positive one.
Instead, ask for the negative straight away.
What’s not good about it yet ?
What’s wrong with it ?
What could be better ?
Yeah, the answer might shatter your ego like a ceramic bowl, but this is not about soothing in sugar land, this is about securing your success in the future.
Ask for a slap in the face. The harder it hurts, the more you learn.
3) Understand technology, and how it relates to your career.
Back in the day, a painter needed only to know about painting. A writer needed to know about writing. And so on, and on.
Lots of illustrators / designers I meet still think they need a college degree to succeed.
When I tell them about building an online presence (blog + social media) and attracting international clients, they look at me as if I’m trying to sell them dragon eggs from Alpha Centauri.
They don’t see how technology changes the landscape. They don’t see how schooling becomes less and less important, while online presentation and networking become your life essence. Pretty much.
No matter which market you’re in, technology will dramatically change how and IF you make money in your career.
If you’re an author, understand how all-you-can-read-buffet-style subscription models will dramatically change the way you make money.
If you’re an indie artist, understand how 3d printing will dramatically change the way you sell
your artwork. Prepare.
If you’re an online biz owner, understand how social media expert will be a thing of the past.
Technology will change the way you earn money in the future, no matter how untech-related
your current career is. Better to get informed about it.
4) Bridge till you break your fingers.
Bridging is the process of closing the gap from where you are right now (the suck state)
to the place where you want to be (the success state).
I’ve written a whole post about this :
It’s a lifelong process that will only end when the grim reaper comes knocking on your door. Knock. Knock.
The minute you finish reading this post, thousands of new competitors will have entered
the global arena. Blood lusty beasts. Embrace your suckyness and move from level 1 to level 2,
still sucking, but at least knowing why.
Only then will you re-awake your hunger for greatness.
Only then will you do what it takes to succeed in the future.
You know what they say :
The truth will set you free,
but first, it will piss you off.
And if you share this post with your friends and peers, you will
make one unofficial step to sucking less already.