The best way to find your strengths is to explore your suckyness.
I recently listened to an interview with Adam Corolla, comedian, author and host of the Adam Corolla Show. He made a very profound comment “it’s very important to figure out what you suck at.” It got a laugh, but it’s very true.
A common thread I hear with writers and comedians is that they could never work in a normal office environment. Some of the most successful of this group figured this out early on and, in fact, were so bad at certain things that these perceived shortcomings became a major part of their act. Louis CK comes to mind. He knows exactly what he sucks at and is not afraid to share it with the world.
Now that I think about it, I can’t recall one comedian who doesn’t at least dabble in a good amount of self-deprecation. People love this. I mean, who would you rather hang out with, a blowhard who speaks only of their great achievements, or someone who can literally bring you to tears laughing at their trials and tribulations. Hollywood understands this. I think everyone can identify with at least one character from Old School, Anchorman, Wedding Crashers, or Something about Mary.
Can you make a suck list?
I’m not sure if everyone can just sit down and make a Suck List. I think it’s something that you have to experience and be aware of over a long period of time. It takes a bit of deep thought. I’m picturing some sort of anti guru who has you sit and chant “I suck at math” “I suck at holidays” “I suck at remembering names.” Doing this with yourself is not that easy. I think it’s better to start with small stuff. Some things you learned early on. Stuff you suck at, but don’t really have a huge interest in.
Here are a few that I would put in that category.
- I suck at singing, I mean absolutely awful I can’t even think of one song I could sing. I have no interest in singing. I will just hum along enjoy the music, maybe a little air guitar. I’ve made peace with this.
- I suck at running. I can walk forever and really enjoy it. Once I start running things start to hurt. This is gotten worse with age so I enjoy a walk or a long bike ride.
I won’t bore you with the full list, I could fill up a few blog posts. So, these two items are examples of things that I suck at but have adapted to.
The other type of suckyness
There’s another type of suckyness that we need to explore when we’re thinking about our life’s work. These are things we acknowledge that we’re bad at but could have a long-term impact depending on what we choose to do in life. Or, what we choose to do for our second act.
Years ago, I considered opening a restaurant. I worked in the beer business and had a lot of opportunities to meet some successful restaurant owners. I was heading down a path that many potential restaurant owners do. Just because you love restaurants, you love the restaurant business and food, doesn’t mean you should open a restaurant. To do that, you need to enjoy working long hours, watching other people enjoy themselves, you need to love people, and not be afraid of chaos.
- I suck at long hours, I sometimes blame this on low energy level unless I’m having fun doing something I love, then I have lots of energy.
- I hate chaos. Restaurants have a lot of food waste, theft, last-minute firings, bathroom disasters, city health inspectors. You’ll deal with all this if you open a restaurant.
- People: I am great with faces and facts but terrible with names. I like watching people enjoy themselves only if I am enjoying myself along with them!
Wow – long hours, chaos, and people. These are three things that could definitely put a damper on anything I try to do. They are potentially three key elements in any entrepreneurial venture.
Herein lies the real reason to think hard about what you suck at. Getting a great feel for your weaknesses early on will help you make some difficult choices. More importantly, there will be certain things that you decide to conquer. Eliminating chaos from your life can help you in a lot of other areas. You may find that you dislike something so you’re very good at eliminating it.
So, that time you spend waiting tables or working in customer service wasn’t wasted if it helped you find a better fit. Once you finish your suck list, you just want to make sure that your job or new venture doesn’t depend on too many of those. Note: you will always have a few, that’s why they call it work.
When the long hours seem to fly by, you’ll know you found something to build on. Adam Corolla’s book is called Not Taco Bell Material.