Kick Ass, Stop Sucking, and Stop Sweating

by Alexander Heyne · 5 comments

*** Side note from Alex: today we have a guest post

from David Delp of  You guys will like it –

If you want to read more about David or his site, see his bio at the bottom. ***

Kick ass

Why are you trying to do so many things?

Even if you can pull off better-than-average results, who really cares if you are pretty good at a bunch of stuff? Top graduate schools aren’t looking for well-rounded students. The best jobs aren’t given to people who stretch themselves thin and wide. Besides, trying to do too many things usually leads to sucking at most of them and chasing mediocrity like a dog chasing it’s tail.

In contrast, some good evidence points to higher job and life satisfaction when you focus on developing a few rare, valuable skills. You’ll get better opportunities to work with better people doing better things.

You stand out when you kick ass, but kicking ass requires mastery, focus, and the ability to respond which are impossible when you do too much.

So, why not kick ass at something and stop sweating the rest?

It’s time to take an inventory.

It’s still a new year. Look at all that shit you tell yourself you need to do or want to do, plus all the things you do anyway, whether you want to do them or not. Are you kicking ass at anything? I’m not talking about frisbee golf, pickin’ up chicks, or getting your taxes done on time. I’m definitely not talking about getting the most stuff done.

Is there some skill you are mastering that opens awesome doors?

If so, then is skip down to Stop Sucking.

If not, then it’s time to kick ass.

Kick Ass

Kicking ass means doing something difficult that people really care about.

This year pick one goal you can set your mind to, one that helps you:

  • Develop a rare and valuable skill,
  • Connect and collaborate with people doing rare and valuable work,
  • Provide exciting opportunities, and
  • Stay interested enough to face challenges.

It could mean finishing graduate school, leading a project at your job, organizing your community, or even something personal like getting out of debt, which may not connect you to awesome people, but will certainly open up opportunities.

Consider the skills you will need with some care. For example, guitar shredding is rare and valuable, but only if your style is unique (or your mastery astounding) and there’s demand for your bad-ass shreds in studio or on stage. Otherwise you’re just another chick jammin’ in a garage band, which might be load of fun, but it isn’t kicking ass.

Hint: If you start with what people care about you’re more likely to locate the value. Solve a problem that nobody else is solving.

[Side note: learning a difficult, but valuable skill is central to Charlie Hoehn’s “Get any job you want, within 1 year, in any industry” promise in his manifesto: The Recession Proof Grad. Read more about that here]

Make the choice.

If there are more than one opportunity that meet these criteria, then flip a coin. It’s better to decide and act, then to putter and dabble. Commit, and dive in. Get involved.

Yes, you will meet up with frustration and boredom as you go. That’s all part of learning to kick ass. Set short term goals to help you focus and feel mastery early and often. You don’t want to burn out from doubt and failure. Learn how to tune the challenges so you skills grow gradually. Plus, there are ways to find Flow in your work to make the frustrating tasks easier to learn, and the boring stuff more engaging.

So what’s it going to be? What will you train your attention on this coming year?

Write it down. This year I will kick ass by __________________. And go tell someone about it.

Now, all those other things you are doing? Stop them, stop sucking at them, and stop sweating them.


You need time and attention to kick ass, so stop doing almost everything else. Sure, you need to have some fun, bring home the bacon, keep your body vitalized, and make sure to nurture key relationships, but there’s a lot of stuff you could just stop doing without ruining your life. Start with the meaningless stuff. Throw out your video game console. Quit seeing the “friends” that sap your energy and aren’t going anywhere. Quit Facebook.

Then, get a little hard core. What can you give up? What responsibilities can you hand to someone else? Examine everything you do and ask, will this make my life a lot better? Will it ruin my life if I stop?

No? So stop.

Stop Sucking (and the Stop Sucking Survey)

Sucking is when you are so bad at something that it gets in the way of the really really important stuff. Do parking tickets drain your bank account? Are you an ass in the eyes of your colleagues because you suck so bad at email? Do you suck at planning your day so nothing important gets done? To kick ass, you may need to learn a couple more life management skills and set up some time saving systems.

You can’t stop sucking at everything so don’t even try.

Take this survey to see where you need to stop sucking.

Stop Sweating

Some of us (me) tend to sweat the small stuff. Unless you suck so bad at something that it gets in the way of the really important stuff in your life, then stop sweating it. It’s fine to be barely good enough at most things in your life. Really, good enough is just that, good enough. Stop bumming out. Don’t waste your sweat.

Remember, you’re trying to kick ass. That means letting a lot of other things go.

Kicking Ass and Happiness.

The truth is that you don’t know what will make you happy in the future, but focusing on something you care about will give you the best chance of being happy now, and mastering valuable skills in the process will open your future to amazing possibilities you can’t even imagine yet.

And here’s a secret people forget to mention: The path to kicking ass kicks ass in itself. Developing mastery and connecting to cool people doing something you care about makes going there even better than getting there.


David delp bio pic

David Delp is Creative Director at Pilot Fire. A designer by trade, an artist at heart, and a playwright by sheer will, David is also a father, friend, lover, homemaker, neighborhood organizer, gardener, breadwinner, musician, ham and hack. He teaches Designing a Balanced Life so people can get their shit together and do something that really matters.

If you guys want to check out David’s program on getting your shit together to start doing something that matters, check it out here. — Alex

Images: Lamprey

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stewart January 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm

I like the simplicity of the just “flip a coin”. You know what you want when that coin is in the air anyway.

More important, I’d add that this exercise isn’t about picking the perfect thing. It’s about kicking *ss. You can kick *ss at anything you choose to. The key is the choice… and the kicking. Great point that kicking *ss is a learned skill, just like any other.



David Delp January 25, 2013 at 5:50 pm

That’s so true about coins. Sometimes you don’t know what you really want until the decision is already made!


Sarah January 25, 2013 at 4:57 pm

Oh man, there’s so much here, David.

For me, the most important part of all of it is buried all the way at the bottom of the article… you have to still LIVE even while you’re achieving your goal. And sometimes the things you cut out aren’t actually the right ones. I know people who swear by cutting out Facebook… but as a connector, I need that information. I try to limit totally mindless browsing… I take people out of my stream who I don’t need to know about, and I always check a person’s pages before I reach out to them in case I missed something, but spending time understanding Facebook and the people/businesses on it as a marketer and connector is hella important. And on the other hand, something like horseback riding, which I will NEVER be great at, is also really important both in terms of keeping me sane, getting me out of my own head and keeping me engaged with meeting (and overcoming) fear. (Side note: I haven’t been riding the last year or so, and I can see the difference everywhere… it’s something I need to put back into my time and money budget because it has such a far reaching impact.)

So I guess my point is yes, I’ve done a lot of paring down in order to be able to focus this year, but at the same time, I try to keep a mindset of conscious experimentation… Putting the blinders on is usually the fast path to disaster for me since (yep) we’re really bad at predicting what makes us happy.


David Delp January 25, 2013 at 5:10 pm

Sarah, I’m so happy this provoked such a thoughtful response. The bottom line is also at the top – that doing “too much” will cripple your ability to focus, master anything, and be responsive. The key message is to stop doing too much, and learn how to enjoy learning something deeply.

It’s a common example, but it’s worth noting, Facebook is something that gets in most people’s way. For you, as a Connector, Facebook is an essential tool. It sounds like Facebooking is actually a skill of yours, and as a Connector, you may dig even more deeply so you kick ass as a Connector.

It sounds like you Stopped Sweating horseback riding! It’s easier to enjoy something you’ll never be great at if you Stop Sweating trying to Kick Ass in it. Maybe you always have (not sweated that one).

In my own life, I feel like I swung really far on minimizing what I do so I can focus. I haven’t started kicking ass the way I thought I would, but boy am I learning a lot about what’s important to me, and that’s priceless.


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