7 crapulous reasons to unleash your inner crap artist

By Steven Robert Carlson


One of our pirate friends wants to play music. With no formal training, he simply picks up any instrument at hand and tries to make music as best he can.

For example that plastic trumpet.

Our friend honks and blows his plastic horn like a wounded bull moose wrestling with a power saw. You wouldn’t believe the dreadful racket he makes.

What comes out of that trumpet is simply … crap.

But here’s the thing.

Our friend knows it’s crap. We all know it’s crap. And nobody cares.

Quite the opposite. We find it wonderful.

Yes, our pirate friend is a crappy musician, for now. But we also know he’s on to something. He understands that liberating his inner crap artist is his pathway to mastery–and possibly even genius.

Here are seven reasons why:

1) You (usually) have to be crap before you can be good

Malcolm Gladwell is widely quoted as stating you need 10,000 hours of practice to master a new skill. Recent studies dispute this, suggesting that it depends upon the kind of skill. Gladwell disagrees.

Whatever the number, it’s obvious you have to spend a LOT of time producing crap before you can call yourself a master of something.

Unless you’re a prodigy like Mozart.

You’re not Mozart, are you? Neither am I.

Oh crap.

2) Your true friends love your imperfections

Our friend isn’t Miles Davis. We know that.

We can feel him blowing his soul through that yellow plastic trumpet, putting his whole being into the attempt, straining for each false note, fully aware the result is godawful.

He doesn’t care. He’s laughing!

For these few moments of cacophonous glory our friend is triumphant, unselfconscious and joyful. And we share his joy.

It takes courage to be vulnerable. It takes heart.

In these moments of uninhibited expression we catch a glimpse of something that is raw, powerful and unique. This is that diamond in the rough, the essential You, the seed of nascent genius.

Sure, some people will criticize and mock you.

Your true friends will support you.

3) Most attempts are crap

Most startup businesses tank. Most marriages end in divorce. Most pop songs fail to hit the Top 100. Most spermatozoa never reach the egg.

That’s no reason not to try, is it?

Consider this: You are the lucky descendent of thousands upon thousands of victorious sperm, throughout countless years of human history, who made it to the finish line and fertilized an egg.

Why give up now?

4) Get that crap out of your system even faster!

If it really takes 10,000 hours to master a new skill, then doesn’t it make sense to accelerate the process?

Video blogger Ze Frank warns against ‘brain crack’, the addiction to keeping that perfect idea in your head rather than executing.

The bummer is most ideas kind of suck when you do them. And no matter how much you plan you still have to do something for the first time. And you are almost guaranteed the first time you do something it will blow. But somebody who does something bad three times still has three times the experience of that other person who is still dreaming of actually doing it. When I get an idea, even a bad one, I try to get it out into the world as fast as possible, because I certainly don’t want to be addicted to brain crack.

5) What you think is crap might be gold dust to others

The history of invention is the history of accidents.

  • A civil war veteran turned pharmacist was mixing up a brew he intended as a medication. We call the result Coca Cola.
  • A researcher absent-mindedly placed a hot iron on his ballpoint pen, producing an eruption of ink. Thus the ink-jet printer.
  • Two brothers left a pot of boiled grain on the stove for several days, resulting in thick dry chips of meal we know as corn flakes.
  • A researcher working on radar technology noticed a candy bar in his pocket had melted. He had discovered the principle behind the microwave oven.
  • A scientist noticed that a contaminated Petri dish he had discarded contained a mold that was dissolving all the bacteria around it. He had stumbled upon penicillin.

These are just a few examples.

The point is you may not be your own best critic.

6) Perfection is a straight jacket

We are afraid to look stupid. And so we stagnate.

I once knew a man that learned conversational Hungarian in just three months. Keep in mind that Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages on the planet.

How did he do it? He made himself foolish, that’s how.

Most people learning a new language stand around mute as a post, too afraid to jump into conversation. They’re terrified that if they open their mouths to speak, what will come out is … crap.

My friend was happy to make himself an idiot, waving his arms at strangers, pantomiming what he wanted, jumping up and down, playing silly games with the words he was learning.

This is how children learn.

Children aren’t afraid to make mistakes. They just play.

Children are natural learning machines.

Are you too proud to learn from a child?

7) How else will you ever know what doesn’t work?

Our friend finally tired of his plastic trumpet. He realized he wasn’t going to get any better sound out of the thing. It’s only a plastic trumpet, right?.

So he made himself a drum kit.

He’s been playing the drums for several months now. I recently saw him on stage, jamming with several other musicians, a big smile across his face.

He’s getting good.

Our friend is no Keith Moon but he can keep the beat. He just might have talent and he certainly has persistence.


The road to greatness is paved with half-baked attempts, spectacular flops and heartfelt stinkers.

Before mastery comes … crap.

Do you dare to unleash your inner crap artist?

I won’t laugh. I promise.

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