Why It’s Good to Suck (At Something)

I suck at skateboarding. I’m terrible at it. But you know what, it’s good to suck at something. Here’s why…

(And yes, there will be an RPG angle to my story.)

There are a bunch of things I can get cocky about. I’m not bragging though, because I still have far to go, but I’m a fairly competent writer and editor, I know a deal about design and layout, and my puns are perfection. When it comes to skateboarding though, I suck.

Just how bad am I?

I’m a fearful person, and I’ve got the coords of a drunken goat. I can’t jump, and I nearly killed myself for a stupid trick (that’s hyperbole, but it still hurt).

But all the suckage is a good thing. It keeps you humble. It teaches you. It gives you perspective.

Humility and Real Motivation

So we’re going to talk about game design a lot here, and we’re going to talk about motivation too. Motivation’s the fuel that gets game design done, that pulls game devs through the tough times.

Motivation fascinates me.

People say our minds are like a computer, so then understanding motivation is like learning to hack our brains. That’s tastily cyberpunk.

But the motivation I’m talking about isn’t the Tony Robbin’s flavored shlock you find in a lot of self-help books. I’m talking about understanding what makes your brain think like it does, then knowing how to deal with those thoughts.

In skateboarding, sometimes the most unnatural movements are the right ones. Take dropping in.

Credit: Tania Ferreira Lourenco

Dropping in is where you have your skateboard’s nose up, then lean forward so that you and your board’s nose come down, onto the ramp. Your body’s natural instinct is to pull back, but this always fouls up and could put you on your bum. Ultimately, you have to trust the physics and lean into it, fighting through the fear.

You quickly realize that fear’s keeping you back. The only way to hack your brain is to fight the fear. So how do you fight fear?

School of Hard Knocks

We all know how to run, but riding a plank, that’s odd. You might be lucky to have learned it as a kid, but otherwise it’s an alien activity. In this way, skateboarding is a perfect model for how we learn.

I see it when I compare mini painting to skateboarding. Both take practice, and practice pays off for both hobbies. The best synonym for practice is “baby steps”. You learn to master mini painting by focusing on one new step at a time.

Gamemastering? Same. Writing games? Same. Nobody ever learned all the rules of D&D before running their first game, they learn enough and add to that knowledge later.

Knowing you suck is the only way to improve.