Brad's Books and Organizations

Books

Books

Organizations

Organizations

Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

« swipe left for tags/categories

swipe right to go back »

What Do You Suck At?

Comments (19)

The concept of "sucking" has been a recurring theme in my work that I’ve co-opted for the good of the universe.  I’ve written about it plenty on this blog, including the origin of the concept – the motto of my first company – We Suck Less. 

At last night’s TechStars orientation, one of the exercises that David Cohen had everyone in the room do was talk about one thing they suck at.  Mine was portion control.  I eat too much.  If there is a full plate of food in front of me, I will eat it.  I like to live an abundant life and I have trouble limiting my abundance when it comes to eating.

We only went around the room one time, but as David noted we could easily go around ten times and have everyone self-identify nine other things they suck at.  The meta-message was that we all suck at some things; understanding them and being able to articulate them is the first step to addressing (or managing) them.

Ironically, I had done a pretty good job on portion control all day until I showed up at the orientation. I had a nice modest dinner at The Kitchen beforehand that I topped up at TechStars with a nice big plate of Noodle’s Mac and Cheese.  I did manage to stop after one plate.  Fortunately I ran for two and a half hours in the morning.

  • Jonathan Chauncey

    I consider myself to have very good work ethics (thanks Dad) yet I seem to suck at school. I loved high school and I loved college yet I could never make decent grades. I retain information and grasp concepts fairly easy but I could never do well on tests. Even though I only graduated college with a 2.9 gpa in Comp Sci (my GPA in my CS courses and related curriculum is around 3.4).

    I would do anything to go back to undergrad (math and physics would be my next two degrees of choice) or go on to Grad school and get my master's and phd so I could be a professor (I love teaching people). But alas I suck at school.

    My wife on the other hand has never struggled in school, she maintains a 3.95 GPA (2 years as a chemistry major and now as early childhood). She passed calculus with flying colors and organic chem 1 and 2. Yet she hates school and cannot wait to get out.

    I think its funny how some people suck at something but love it just the same, and how some people are great at something but hate it.

  • http://www.coloradostartups.com David G. Cohen

    Day 1 of TechStars also reminded me how much I suck at remembering peoples names, among about 15 other things.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Man – I suck at that also. Who are you again?

      • David

        I think what's his name has that same issue.

  • todd langer

    I think that practically any intelligent person can multi-task and handle an inordinate amount of stress/work, but the smart few have learned how to avoid overload or in other words get more done with less effort. I guess this form of wisdom comes with experience and learning how to suck less.

  • Ross

    Apparently I suck at whitelisting things in spam filters…

    • Jonathan Chauncey

      heh I read this as I suck at whistling things in spam filters

  • Aziz Grieser

    Brad, I wonder if “portion control” = “addictive personality”? I think you love to eat, as do I, and simply want more of what you love. Same with your psychotic running stints. 2 + 1/2 hours? That's a long f'ing time! I run all the time and am addicted to working out and playing sports more from the great feeling afterwards, and the harder it is, the better I feel… I know that was the case with my brief cigarette stint in college. I love my addictions.

    PS – Upon reflection, I've decided that I suck at taking feedback the most. That's what pushes me to do things so well that any feedback I get will take some thinking, so naturally I get too defensive.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Eh – I’m not sure how much it is an “addictive personality” in my case. Obsessive maybe.

  • http://andrewhyde.net Andrew Hyde

    I suck at having a master plan, I tend to focus on little things, but forget the big picture. Questions like 'where will you be in a year?' always get me.

    • http://tylerwillis.net Tyler Willis

      I would say I have the opposite problem, I suck at focus. I love big concepts and ideas — and I often lost sight of steps that need to be completed.

      I like working, I often get into grooves where I can get some great detailed work done. But I really suck at remembering, listing, prioritizing, and logically completing tasks at hand. Instead, I just kind of float in and out of what my mind thinks is most important at the time (and usually I'll remember something else and switch to that halfway through a task).

      If I wanted to blow smoke up anyone's rear-end I'd call this holistic work — in reality it's plain unproductive.

      Cool exercise btw, helps to remember that you need to work with other people who's strengths are where your weaknesses are. Thank god I have a co-worker who is very methodical and can remind me of these things.

  • John Minnihan

    I suck at saying no. Lots better today than when I began my career. Also suck at sticking to exercise plans, specifically running. I've progressed up to running 10 miles around the bay when I work in San Francisco, but won't get my ass out onto the trails 1/2 block from house in Highlands Ranch.

  • Merredith

    I suck at throwing a ball. My dad figured he didn't need to teach daughters how to throw balls (I suspect he was lousy himself). It sounds silly, but it gets in the way. I'm strong and was a decent soccer player and runner, but always hemmed and hawed when it came time to just throw a ball or play softball, b/c I looked like a foil for Bugs Bunny or something. My kids are teaching me to throw.

  • Jared Still

    I suck at administration. I procrastinate. I sub-optimize, I leave administrative stuff lingering for so long, that once it truly must be done, I've got more of a mess to take care of. I hate it. Truly not my gift…the problem is, in a start-up, when its just you & your other founder, there are times when a ton of admin that needs to be done.

    I also am not good at staying motivated through the natural lulls in work/life. Things have to be running on high-octane fuel, making big decisions & turning big actions for me to stay excited. Its probably these lulls in which I should be knocking out some admin…instead, I read blog posts and every news headline imaginable :)

  • trex

    Can I post image

    trex
  • Melissa Hourigan

    I suck at staying focused. Every time I read something compelling on Twitter, I end up on sites like this to learn about new technologies. I also suck at getting sleep, a typical night = kids are asleep, I am online.

  • Cory Matthews

    I suck at:

    - Not telling others what they suck at.
    - Spending too much time screensucking.
    - Having hair.
    - Persistence.

    I'm sure I'll think of plenty more.

  • Brent Watson

    I love this question! I have 3 answers, each being equally important:
    * I try not to suck at much… I mean come on, who wants to suck at anything?
    * The things I suck at I try to overcome. I used to be a poor endurance athlete, so I trained up and have since finished in the top 10% of something like 6 triathlons, 2 duathlons, … Sucking at something is a great motivator – never forget that!
    * And… the most important answer… there are some things I suck at – whitewater kayaking being the best example – that I know I will always suck at. But I still do it because it keeps me humble. Keep your humility always!

  • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

    from an email comment (I really suck having the patience in dealing with knuckleheads seeking capital that lack common sense in meeting investor approval criteria.)

  • todd langer

    I think that practically any intelligent person can multi-task and handle an inordinate amount of stress/work, but the smart few have learned how to avoid overload or in other words get more done with less effort. I guess this form of wisdom comes with experience and learning how to suck less.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Man – I suck at that also. Who are you again?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/andrew_hyde651 andrew_hyde651

    I suck at having a master plan, I tend to focus on little things, but forget the big picture. Questions like 'where will you be in a year?' always get me.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/john_minnih5395 john_minnih5395

    I suck at saying no. Lots better today than when I began my career. Also suck at sticking to exercise plans, specifically running. I've progressed up to running 10 miles around the bay when I work in San Francisco, but won't get my ass out onto the trails 1/2 block from house in Highlands Ranch.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/tyler_willi1552 tyler_willi1552

    I would say I have the opposite problem, I suck at focus. I love big concepts and ideas — and I often lost sight of steps that need to be completed.

    I like working, I often get into grooves where I can get some great detailed work done. But I really suck at remembering, listing, prioritizing, and logically completing tasks at hand. Instead, I just kind of float in and out of what my mind thinks is most important at the time (and usually I'll remember something else and switch to that halfway through a task).

    If I wanted to blow smoke up anyone's rear-end I'd call this holistic work — in reality it's plain unproductive.

    Cool exercise btw, helps to remember that you need to work with other people who's strengths are where your weaknesses are. Thank god I have a co-worker who is very methodical and can remind me of these things.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ross2308 ross2308

    Apparently I suck at whitelisting things in spam filters…

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/dgcohen dgcohen

    Day 1 of TechStars also reminded me how much I suck at remembering peoples names, among about 15 other things.

  • Jonathan Chauncey

    I consider myself to have very good work ethics (thanks Dad) yet I seem to suck at school. I loved high school and I loved college yet I could never make decent grades. I retain information and grasp concepts fairly easy but I could never do well on tests. Even though I only graduated college with a 2.9 gpa in Comp Sci (my GPA in my CS courses and related curriculum is around 3.4).

    I would do anything to go back to undergrad (math and physics would be my next two degrees of choice) or go on to Grad school and get my master's and phd so I could be a professor (I love teaching people). But alas I suck at school.

    My wife on the other hand has never struggled in school, she maintains a 3.95 GPA (2 years as a chemistry major and now as early childhood). She passed calculus with flying colors and organic chem 1 and 2. Yet she hates school and cannot wait to get out.

    I think its funny how some people suck at something but love it just the same, and how some people are great at something but hate it.

  • Merredith

    I suck at throwing a ball. My dad figured he didn't need to teach daughters how to throw balls (I suspect he was lousy himself). It sounds silly, but it gets in the way. I'm strong and was a decent soccer player and runner, but always hemmed and hawed when it came time to just throw a ball or play softball, b/c I looked like a foil for Bugs Bunny or something. My kids are teaching me to throw.

  • Jonathan Chauncey

    heh I read this as I suck at whistling things in spam filters

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Eh – I’m not sure how much it is an “addictive personality” in my case. Obsessive maybe.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/david391 david391

    I think what's his name has that same issue.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/jared_stil28971 jared_stil28971

    I suck at administration. I procrastinate. I sub-optimize, I leave administrative stuff lingering for so long, that once it truly must be done, I've got more of a mess to take care of. I hate it. Truly not my gift…the problem is, in a start-up, when its just you & your other founder, there are times when a ton of admin that needs to be done.

    I also am not good at staying motivated through the natural lulls in work/life. Things have to be running on high-octane fuel, making big decisions & turning big actions for me to stay excited. Its probably these lulls in which I should be knocking out some admin…instead, I read blog posts and every news headline imaginable :)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/brent_wats36881 brent_wats36881

    I love this question! I have 3 answers, each being equally important:
    * I try not to suck at much… I mean come on, who wants to suck at anything?
    * The things I suck at I try to overcome. I used to be a poor endurance athlete, so I trained up and have since finished in the top 10% of something like 6 triathlons, 2 duathlons, … Sucking at something is a great motivator – never forget that!
    * And… the most important answer… there are some things I suck at – whitewater kayaking being the best example – that I know I will always suck at. But I still do it because it keeps me humble. Keep your humility always!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/melissa_ho36581 melissa_ho36581

    I suck at staying focused. Every time I read something compelling on Twitter, I end up on sites like this to learn about new technologies. I also suck at getting sleep, a typical night = kids are asleep, I am online.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    from an email comment (I really suck having the patience in dealing with knuckleheads seeking capital that lack common sense in meeting investor approval criteria.)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/cmatthews cmatthews

    I suck at:

    - Not telling others what they suck at.
    - Spending too much time screensucking.
    - Having hair.
    - Persistence.

    I'm sure I'll think of plenty more.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/aziz_griese5636 aziz_griese5636

    Brad, I wonder if "portion control" = "addictive personality"? I think you love to eat, as do I, and simply want more of what you love. Same with your psychotic running stints. 2 + 1/2 hours? That's a long f'ing time! I run all the time and am addicted to working out and playing sports more from the great feeling afterwards, and the harder it is, the better I feel… I know that was the case with my brief cigarette stint in college. I love my addictions.

    PS – Upon reflection, I've decided that I suck at taking feedback the most. That's what pushes me to do things so well that any feedback I get will take some thinking, so naturally I get too defensive.

Build something great with me