I’ve been struggling with some complex concepts about becoming a great personality. And I’ve concluded that great shows happen only when we first embrace the art of sucking – on the air.

Part of the satisfaction of being a talent coach is the joy of talent discovering how their gifts can be used. But it’s a harrowing journey. Some give up or stall when they fall short of expectations.

We all want greatness, but the path to being elite is long. It takes time and effort to become proficient. It’s not going to be great immediately. And that’s fine. It’s okay to suck. The art of sucking is a necessary part of mastery.

Nobel Prize winner Frank Wilczek once said,
If you don’t make mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough…and that’s a big mistake.

Becoming A Black Belt

Here’s why it can be frustrating. Knowing how to do something doesn’t produce the ability to do it.

Martial arts students learn every skill needed to become a Black Belt relatively quickly. But that doesn’t make them a Black Belt. That takes time, discipline, and a commitment to the craft. Hundreds of hours are dedicated to learning the skills and thousands more to reaching the highest level.

In the process, there is a lot of sucking.

Becoming a radio Black Belt is hard. It’s going to suck because you will be stretched beyond your comfort zone. But stick with the process. It will pay off.

As Winston Churchill said:

Success is going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.

The Art Of Sucking and Permission To Fail

Stay with it even when it sucks. It’ll get better, and you’ll suck less. Keep doing it, and you’ll be good.

Anything worth doing is worth doing badly.

  • Those unwilling to golf badly will never be great golfers.
  • Great authors write poorly at first.
  • You will never be a great chef if you are unwilling to cook badly.

Rewards go to those who reach for something spectacular. Anyone can achieve sustained mediocrity by polishing their skills. But that will result in being at the high end of the average. And the marketplace doesn’t reward the average.

So feel free to suck in the pursuit of extraordinary performance. Of course, that isn’t a license to justify poor performance. Sucking is not the goal. The key is to fail fast and fail big. Study the performance to figure out why it failed. Then fix it.

Tom Peters once described his key to success:

Reward Spectacular Failure. Punish Mediocre Success.

Get Help

Start with a strategy and someone to help.  Someone who tells the truth. DeDe McGuire of the syndicated DeDe In The Morning has a mentor that helped her push through the art of sucking.

She talks about the process of learning to become a great host:

It was hard, and Geo (K104/Dallas Program Director George Cook) was relentless. We’d listen to audio together. We’d listen to part of a break that took 15 seconds to make a point. He challenged me to rephrase it and figure out how to say it in 7. It was hard. So I got it to 7 seconds. Then he told me to figure out how to do it in 5. It wasn’t about the length of the break. It was about mastering the art of brevity. We did this over and over and over until it became a habit. This discipline made the whole show more entertaining.

DeDe had the knowledge and talent but wasn’t a Black Belt. She needed help.


Those who reach the top are willing to put in the effort. Take chances to seek mastery of your craft bravely.

Wayne Gretzky is the greatest hockey player ever. He once said:

100% of the shots you don’t take won’t go into the net.

Start small. But get started. Take the shot. You’re going to miss it. You’re going to suck. That’s okay. Study the process and shoot again. You’ll get it. Take the first step toward greatness.

And the next time someone says, “You suck,” celebrate it. That’s the path to success.

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