Among my favorite pieces of advice I was ever given, was the advice to “Embrace the Suck”.
Seven years ago I was a firefighter in training, and as part of that training I was required to face two of my biggest fears; tight spaces and lack of air. In basic structural firefighter training, a lot of jurisdictions put their recruits through a maze. In my circumstance, the maze consisted of a shipping container filled with passageways no larger than an air duct, with obstacles requiring you to get very uncomfortable to overcome. All of this while being completely in the dark, in full firefighting gear, on an air pack and with instructors actively breaking your equipment. They literally reach through holes in the construction and turn off your air, disconnect your hoses and yank at your equipment. And if you take off your mask or otherwise break the seal it has around your face – game over, you lose.
Being a 6’3, 210lb guy I was at a strong disadvantage for this course. Smaller people would be able to do most of the maze on their hands and knees. I would have to go in like a slug, hands stretched in front of me. 15 minutes of claustrophobia, summer heat and asshole instructors threatening your air supply.
Needless to say, I wasn’t the only recruit feeling anxiety about this part of the course. The maze is performed in the second week of training because it quickly weeds out those who don’t have the mental toughness to pass it. And it is a bit of legend that everyone talks about. The instructors treat like a bogeyman. “Oh, you think you’re having fun now. Wait til you get to the maze.” Other firefighters you meet will ask “Have you guys done the maze yet?” with a smile. Old timers will laugh and tell you how in their day the maze was some tarps and 4x4s. Everyone talks about it and tells you just how bad it is. It’s designed to scare you, to intimidate you and to challenge you.
Quite frankly, it’s designed to suck.
The maze was the constant topic of conversation in class, and it was often pointed out how much it was going to suck. And then some genius, resigned to the fate of the suck gave us all an injection of motivation with the phrase: “Embrace the Suck.”
“Embrace the suck” wasn’t a new phrase. Everyone’s probably heard it before, but in that circumstance it finally rang true in my mind. The maze was coming, it had to be passed if I wanted to be a firefighter, and it was going to suck. Why get down, why get intimidated, why get scared? Embrace the fact that it’s going to suck, and get it done.
The maze came and went, and with it a couple of recruits went. Most made it through, and as we came out of the maze one by one, we were met with high fives and “Embrace the suck” from our fellow recruits, all laughing and smiling. Pretty soon, “Embrace the suck” was our primary means of communicating.
A classmate would say “Got in a fight with my girlfriend”, and the rest of us would respond together “Embrace the suck, man.” Complaining about an instructor riding your ass was met with “Embrace it, baby. Embrace that suck.” Just finished racking hoses and have an instructor yell at us to do it again for one small mistake. Nothing to do but embrace that suck.
It became our official class motto. On our class t-shirt we opted to skip calling ourselves “Smoke Eaters” or “Fire Angels” or some other annoyingly masturbatory name for our class and went with “Embrace the Suck” instead.
The phrase got our class through recruit school. It served as a reminder that the light at the end of the tunnel was worth it, and to reach that end we had to accept that it was going to suck on the way.
And seven years later, “Embrace the Suck” is my motto in life.
What’s the lesson? Simple.
Life is going to suck at times. Lifting weights causes pain. It sucks. Controlling your diet takes effort and involves withholding from things you want. It sucks. Approaching that girl and getting shot down is embarrassing. It sucks. Going to work and going through the ringer. It sucks. Managing your relationships. It sucks. Getting your financial house in order sucks. Studying for tests and doing homework sucks. Turning off the TV to get shit done, that sucks too.
Swallowing the Red Pill sucks. Recognizing that most of what you were taught about your role as a man in society is false, and that the Disney love you thought existed doesn’t really; it sucks.
Life is designed to be a long sequence of suck interrupted by moments of greatness.
You can get down about it. You can get mad. You can get indignant.
You can even avoid the suck opting instead to sit on the couch, avoid the gym, not approach that girl, work that low end job with no future and stay Blue Pill. Beta Bux gets the girl in the end anyway, right?
But if you want to become a great man, live a great life and make the most of your brief existence on this little rock, you’re going to have to embrace it. You’re going to have to wake up every day with a list of things you have to do that are going to suck, and tell yourself with a smile “Embrace the suck”.
And quickly you will find that by embracing the fact that it sucks, things seem to suck less. In fact you start to enjoy the suck.