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May 30, 2008

Embrace The Suck:How To Hate What You Do And Love It

After being called an SOB when I wasn’t looking (especially after taking a week off from the blog), I figure I’d better get back on the ball and post. Today’s words are dedicated to all those who have had a tough week to deal with, but who did what needed to be done anyway.

When I wrote about how to stay motivated to take action when your week goes all to hell, one of the strategies I gave for pushing past the resistance to keep going was this:

Give yourself permission to hate the work you’re doing. Popular self-help wisdom says that you should be happy and upbeat all the time, and if you can’t get excited by everything, you’re doing something wrong (and you should feel guilty for it!).  But life says that ain’t so.  Some tasks suck, but they simply need to be done, and it’s okay not to like them.  I don’t like changing my youngest kid’s diaper, but cleaning up the crap is part of the parenting package.  I don’t have to pretend to like it – I just have to do it.  So don’t pressure yourself to get happy about crap work – admit it’s crap, but do it anyway.

Apparently I’m not the first one to come up with this concept – they’ve been using it in the military for years via a phrase which sounds much better than what I just wrote: “Embrace The Suck.”

When A Job That Sucks Is A Job Well Done

Face it, sometimes you’re going to have to do things that are hard, unenjoyable and unbelievably irritating (things that truly suck), and you have two choices:

  • Get frustrated, drained, and pissed off because you have to deal with the suck, or
  • Embrace the suck, and do it anyway, because you are an a$$-kicker like no other.

I’m reminded of an old United States Marines Corps recruiting poster I saw that said something like, “We’d promise you sleep deprivation, mental torment and muscles so sore you’ll puke … but we don’t like to sugar-coat things.”  That phrase has always stuck with me because it actually makes hard work a bragging point for Marines, saying We pride ourselves on doing the things most people are too wimpy to do – because that’s our job, damn it. However you feel about the military (and let’s not go into it in the comments, please), this is an important distiction.

When you decide that having the strength to follow through on unpleasant tasks is part of what defines you as an a$$-kicker, it changes your perspective. You exchange some that feeling of being drained with a feeling of being proud of yourself.  You tell yourself, “This task sucks, but I’m going to do it well because it proves that I rock.”  And then you truly do “embrace the suck,”and do the dirty work with a good attitude.

You may not like the work any more than you did before, but you’ll sure as hell like yourself more for doing it without moaning and complaining.  And a job that sucks becomes a job well done.

Suck It Up Today, And Be Proud Of It

Today (Friday) is a perfect day to “embrace the suck,” because most people will be moaning “Oh, I’m so glad it’s the weekend and I can finally stop working” (or, for the 7-day-a-week-ers, “Oh, man, don’t I ever get a day off?”).  Don’t complain.  You are stronger than that, damn it.  Embrace the suck, do it anyway, and bask in the fact that you are, as I said, an a$$-kicker like no other.

(P.S. – That’s not to say you need to resign yourself to a situation that sucks.  If you need to change things, find a way to do it.  But until then, use this lesson to keep yourself in a position of strength ’till the change comes round.)

Want to share your thoughts in the comments below or subscribe to this blog? I dig both. :-)

34 Responses to “Embrace The Suck:How To Hate What You Do And Love It”

  • May 30, 2008 Colleen Vanderlinden

    I needed this post today, Dave. It’s 5:58 AM, and I’m already annoyed by one of the freelance editing jobs I’ve taken on.

    I will embrace the suck!

  • May 30, 2008 Dave Navarro

    Indeed. You were hired because you kick a$$, even at 5:58 am!

  • May 30, 2008 Bob Younce at the Writing Journey

    Never thought I’d type this…

    Not in a million years, but.

    Today, by all the Gawds, I will embrace the suck and kick major A$$.

    Seriously, though. Good thoughts, Dave. Good thoughts.

    Bob Younce at the Writing Journey’s last blog post..4 Characteristics of a Useful Link Post

  • May 30, 2008 Brett Legree


    I won’t be able to sit down for the rest of the day, so hard has my a$$ been kicked by this post. Consider this man’s day to be rocked.

    New motto for my workplace:

    “Embrace the suck.”

    How fitting it is!

    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – words of praise.

  • May 30, 2008 Vered

    This needed to be said. I just can’t be upbeat and excited about everything even if I wanted to. Doing what needs to be done is still taking action and being positive – even if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing. Thank you.

    Vered’s last blog post..The Sleazy Ads of Google Adsense

  • May 30, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Bob –
    Embrace it, bub.

    @Brett –
    I believe that this phrase has Viking origins, eh?

    @Vered -
    Right. You don’t have to be excited to get the job done.

    Dave Navarro’s last blog post..Embrace The Suck:How To Hate What You Do And Love It

  • May 30, 2008 Melissa (Pronoia) Pierce


    Coming from a military family (Grandfathers, Father, both brothers) this is a phrase that I have heard quite often, however, it was never explained as wonderfully and w/o the macho military maleness as you just said it. Thanks, I was always ambivalent about the phrase, and now… oh cliche… I can truly say I can embrace it.

  • May 30, 2008 Brett Legree


    I agree, and thanks to the wonders of the internet, we have:

    “omfavnelse det amme”

    I can just see a Viking saying that…

    Not sure how authentic the Norwegian is, but that’s what the old English to Norwegian translator spit out :)

    Brett Legree’s last blog fridays – words of praise.

  • May 30, 2008 GirlPie

    Beyond-valuable post, Mr. Navarro, because it’s MEMORABLE.
    A well-written expression of a smart appropriation for your audience, so glad you’re in my reader.

    My version, for the last 10 years of my solo practice, has been “don’t fear the vomit” (gross, I know, sorry) because the first draft is what we call ‘the vomit draft’ — where you just need to get it all out. Some writers are so afraid of writing poorly that they never get it out.. .unless given permission to write ‘vomit.’

    Your twist on the Marines’ motto/POV inspires me to craft my own version of drek-brag that’ll help me do the work I’ve been putting off by trolling my rss reader! HA! Thanks!

  • May 30, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Melissa –
    Glad to give you a fresh spin on the old phrase. Curious – when was the first time you heard it? I’m wondering how old the phrase is.

    @Brett –
    During the Viking era, almost every mass prayer in a European church was prefaced by ‘Deliver us, O Lord, from the wrath of the Northmen’, says this guy. When I was in Sweden, I picked up a nice shirt with that saying on it (not in English of course). Wish I had the translation for you!

    @GirlPie -
    If you think your saying is rough, you should hear Anne Lamott’s.

  • May 30, 2008 Steph

    Oh my God. Thank you for this. I needed it!!

    Steph’s last blog post..Fiction: Episode III

  • May 30, 2008 Melissa Donovan

    I am starring this post and from now on, whenever someone starts whining, I am going to say, “Embrace the suck!” I love it!

    Melissa Donovan’s last blog post..Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone and Pushing Your Boundaries

  • May 30, 2008 Michael Martine

    Another Marine saying comes to mind: Pain is just weakness leaving the body. Put it another way: stress is just weakness leaving the soul. Rock on, Dave.

    Michael Martine’s last blog post..Gateway Blogging 101

  • May 30, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Steph –
    Glad you liked!

    @Melissa / @Michael
    Another one is “Pain is temporary – pride is forever.” Hoo-ah!

  • May 31, 2008 Friar

    You make a good point about the pollyanna do-gooders who imply that there’s something wrong with us, if we hate what we’re doing, and that we’re not Tra-La-La happy all the time.

    That motivation dosen’t help me…in fact it just pisses me OFF!

    On the other hand:

    “Embrace the suck…..”

    Now THAT works! It makes me want to try harder.

    …That one’s a keeper!

    Friar’s last blog post..A Break from the Cube Farm…

  • May 31, 2008 Janice Cartier


    Note to self: “Embrace the suck”.

    I’ve said it before but muses and masters come from all kinds of places. I really love this one.

    Jeese I owe you big time, especially today. Spa last week, suck this week. Amazing a$$e kicking Dave. and Congrats you SOB.

    Janice Cartier’s last blog post..Uh Oh, It’s Getting A Little Whacky

  • May 31, 2008 Brett Legree


    I know that phrase, but I didn’t know that it was that common. My Viking metal dudes (Amon Amarth) use that as part of the lyrics of one of their songs.

    Those are some scary metal dudes… what a show. They are the sort to embrace the suck.

    Brett Legree’s last blog laid plans.

  • Jun 4, 2008 Strong One

    Heh heh.
    I could embrace ‘the suck’ and look forward to Fridays if I work a M-F job!
    Aaahh well.
    Thanks for the laugh.

    Strong One’s last blog post..Pay it forward

  • Jun 5, 2008 isle

    I too, shall ‘Embrace the Suck.’

    I have done this for years, in various situations and jobs, but it had remained a non-verbalized surge of defiant vigor. Now I have a motto, a plan, …a CafePress Shirt Idea! (somebody creates one, link me and I will nab one, oh yeah.)

    Thanks for a good blog.

    isle’s last blog post..Hitchhiker’s Guide to PEI

  • Jun 5, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Friar –
    Success is work, and more of it. Sexy, no. But embrace it, and you’ll keep rocking.

    @Janice –
    That’s what I’m here for. Let the a$$ kicking commence!

    @Brett –
    I had another great shirt from the same place:

    @Strong One -
    Even non 9-to-5ers need to do this … :-)

    @Isle –
    I may just make some of those shirts …

  • Jun 5, 2008 Brett Legree


    That is totally awesome. I think I need one of those. I love the way the tour dates play out…

    Brett Legree’s last blog post..reading the signs.

  • Jun 6, 2008 Dave Navarro

    @Brett –
    If it wasn’t $40-50 USD after shipping I’d get one. WTF?

  • Mar 10, 2009 chappel

    wow, great post. My only fear would be if one were to regularly get that rev’d up about crappy jobs you’d better learn to get one hell of a charge from doing them, because there’ll be NO END of people lining up to give them to you. I guess that’s one sure-fired secret to success.

  • Mar 11, 2009 Jeff

    Well said! What do you do, though, when you have been embracing the suck so long that it starts to really.. well… suck?

    (Answer: take a vacation.)

    Jeff’s last blog post..I’m Happy About “Grandpa Browsing Facebook”

  • Apr 23, 2009 doc g

    ABOUT TIME! we americans have become wimpy as a nation. time to kick a$$. no one respects us. no one fears us.

    i was a marine corps combat medic in the old days…(desert storm / blackhawk down / you-dont-wanna-know-about)…and medically-supported navy special forces operations. SEALs. i used to ask my patients, ‘do you hurt? you bleeding a lil bit? GOOD! means youre STILL alive’.

    our boys are THE VERY FINEST IN THIS PLANET – BAR NO ONE! they embrace the suck!


  • Jul 12, 2009 container

    It’s the same way here in France, just want to became customers, i have a friends, he just work 6 month in is life (30 years old) and went WE arrived he always say i have to rest, I am tired of the week!

    GRRRR, but the most incredible, here we pay (France) him to stay at home, like Bugs! I hate that

  • Jul 22, 2010 Joel Z

    I woke up this morning (my Saturday) not knowing what I was going to do. Now I’m going to run 3 miles. Why? To prove how kick-ass I am about running of course!

    I’m in the military, but got an easy assignment so it’s been a while since I’ve had a swift kick to the seat of my pants, this is just what I needed. Thanks!

  • Oct 13, 2010 Matt Hill

    What does the comment mean in regard to “however you feel about the military?”
    How could anyone not feel pride and joy that we have non-liberal men and women serving to protect our country so that you all can enjoy the liberties it provides?

Comments are closed.