Achieving Success by Embracing the Suck

Reflections from Podcast #1

I’ll always remember the parting words that a Navy SEALs instructor, named Randy, gave my graduating class in 1994. Randy told all of us 20-somethings to think of ourselves like bullets loaded into the chamber.

“Some of you might achieve highly,” he said. “And some of you might wind up way downrange someplace. Some of you might hit a wall, and it won’t end the way you think it will. Others of you will just sit in the chamber. You’ll sit there until you’re not of much use anymore, and then you’ll be cast aside.”

In 1994, the economy was good, and there was no war going on, but this instructor had the good sense to talk to us about reality. He told us we might not be ultimately satisfied with our lives and that we needed to be prepared for that disappointment.

I think we can and should apply that way of thinking to the state of things today. Many of us may be tempted during this time to sit and feel discouraged. COVID has forced us to be inside much of the time, and I know many people have lost motivation. They are sad about the parts of their life that they’re missing out on, like job opportunities, graduations, and vacations. 

But when we sit back and think about it: we’re always at risk. People get hit by trucks, struck by lightning, fired from a job. What’s going on right now is not much different than any other time in your life. The clock is always running. Just because you’re always looking at the clock now – in the form of the constant news about COVID — doesn’t mean it hasn’t always been running.

It’s exactly at times like these that you need to embrace the suck. Embracing the suck is recognizing that things aren’t always going to go your way. When you embrace the suck, you are concerned, but you are prepared.

How can you be prepared in uncertain times like these? Think of it this way: everything you do, every decision you make, will make you either stronger or weaker, better or worse, more prepared or less prepared. As we go through this health crisis, you need to be thinking, “Where do I want to be when all this drama wraps up?” You need to think about your next step and then take one step at a time.

Identify your one true thing.  When you build on that one true thing, you’re on your way. Whether you call it taking one step at a time or thinking of one true thing, that’s also how you can embrace the suck. 

Where do you want to be in two weeks, in two months, in two years? What kind of person do you want to be? Start with your one true thing. 

Maybe it’s “I want to be a little smarter.”

 Or “I want to be promoted at work.” 

Or “I don’t want to be so scrawny.” 

Whatever your one true thing is, you’re already on the path for making progress if you can identify it.

If during the COVID closings, you’ve been thinking, “How am I ever going to be competitive when I can’t even go to the gym?” you’re getting this embrace the suck thing all wrong. Don’t forget that even when this current crisis has come and gone, everyone is facing the same problems you are. People everywhere are short on time, long on obligations, and tight on money. The winner of this thing called life is ultimately the one who deals with it the best. Some people just give up when showing up is 90 percent of the battle.

How do you show up in this challenging environment? You go back to that one true thing, that one step at a time mentality. You get out of bed and put one foot in front of the other. Don’t look at this crazy time we’re in as an obstacle or an impediment to your success. It’s time to see all of it as an opportunity. Today is a monster opportunity for those who are willing to grab on to it with both hands and, yes, embrace the suck. When you embrace the suck, you won’t be the bullet that is left in the chamber or stuck downrange somewhere. You’ll be hitting your mark and making a difference.

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