Ugly Beginnings

GIF source: Imgur via Reddit

Look at the guy in this clip! I’m thinking he didn’t have anywhere near 10,000 hours of treadmill experience! (see my previous post on Outliers if you don’t get the reference). Ugly outcome. The sad thing is I’ve been this guy way too often in my life. So, while I still laugh every time I see this, I can totally relate to what an “epic fail” feels like! Can you?

Beginnings are never pretty. Never.

Starting something new requires that we try something we’ve never attempted before. Whether it’s painting, riding a bike, playing a musical instrument, starting a business or running on a treadmill. If you are doing it for the first time, the beginning will be ugly (and sometimes painful!). That’s OK!

I remember when I started running again just before I turned 40. I set off with lofty goals of getting out there and quickly getting back to the shape I was in in high school. I know that sounds stupid now, but that’s what I thought. I was highly motivated and committed to becoming a “Runner” so I joined the YMCA and, like the guy above, started on a treadmill. It was ugly! Not as ugly as this guy’s experience, but ugly nevertheless. I barely made it a third of a mile before I was completely out of breath and couldn’t go any farther.

I was frustrated by my first attempt, but was committed to keep trying.

I decided I started off too fast so, next time, I set the speed much slower, sure that I could go farther at a slower pace. Nope. Same frustrating result. What made it worse was there were old, overweight, ladies on the treadmills all around me making it look easy! I felt ugly!

It took going to the Y 3-4 times a week for almost 3 weeks before I was able to jog an entire mile (just 1 mile!) without walking. But when I did, it felt great. I didn’t feel like a failure anymore. The really cool thing is this: it only took 1 more week before I was able jog 2 miles without walking. Now, 8 years later, I run marathons and feel very confident in my abilities as a runner. Now I call myself a “Runner”!

The beginning was ugly, very ugly, but I kept at it. Kept practicing. Kept learning.

But…. you know what? Every time I go out for a run, whether it’s training or an actual race, I hate the first few miles! I don’t start to feel good until I’m a few miles into it. So, even now, the beginning of every run feels “ugly” to me until I find my stride, my rhythm.

Every great painting, painted by a master artist, starts off as an ugly brush stroke on a blank canvas! But the master keeps adding more strokes, more colors, more textures until it becomes what it always was in his mind–a masterpiece!

One mistake we all make in life is comparing ourselves to somebody who is already great at what we want to do or be. We set off with a goal of becoming like that person, but beginnings are ugly and we compare our ugly beginning with their finished masterpiece. It’s not a valid comparison! If you asked, I’d bet that person would tell you he felt the same way when he started–and that would shock you!

Never compare your start with somebody’s finish!

A friend of mine started a business a few years back. For anyone who has done the same, or has a knowledge of business, you will know how demanding this can be. Starting in a good financial position can make all the difference in the world. You can visit the atlantic union bank website to learn more about how to leverage financial services that will benefit you and your business, such as loans. Owning a business doesn’t just involve being at the forefront and making sales; there are a lot of behind the scenes details that need to be dealt with. For example, keeping control of the financial side of the company, which can not only be tedious and time-consuming but lead to huge consequences if mistakes are made. This is why many new business owners ensure they have an accountant that can help them with anything that they can’t fully understand, including small business bookkeeping. Nevertheless, if you do one thing wrong with the startup of your business, the beginnings can be ugly. My friend seemed to have things under control, but there were some problems with the payroll that caused plenty of issues. Things certainly went ugly. However, he learned from his mistakes. He decided to use the payroll services from so that it wouldn’t happen again and he now has a successful business.

You see this sort of thing everywhere. Take this blog for instance. I’m an experienced, well-known web developer. That’s my profession. How do you think I feel about this personal blog site? Yup. It’s ugly and I’m embarrassed to tell people about it. I’m hoping in a few months or a few years I will look back and say “well, it started out ugly but look at it now!” This is how most people are on the path to developing themselves and their skillsets. There’s probably not a web developer alive who hasn’t worked on things that they would do better now they have loads of experience under their belts. This Great post from Slickplan shows how web developers and UX designers can showcase their best work in order to drive more business their way. Of course, they’re not going to include the stuff from their past which they are not as proud of; that’s the nature of progression.

You have a masterpiece in your mind right now, don’t you? Doesn’t matter what it is, it’s important to you. But you’re just starting out and feel ugly. That’s OK! We all start out that way! Keep going and don’t settle for ugly. Make it better. Make it beautiful.

6 Responses to Ugly Beginnings

  1. Jeff K. June 14, 2012 at 8:16 PM #

    Great post. Thanks for your words of wisdom!

  2. Ashley R Lister November 9, 2012 at 9:32 PM #

    Thanks Bruce. Humbling words that I will have to share with my students.

  3. misszippy January 10, 2013 at 10:30 PM #

    Great post! And IMHO, great blogs are all about great content–nothing to be ashamed of here!

  4. Elder Shawn Briscoe October 19, 2013 at 7:23 PM #

    It took me a wee bit of time to get past the young man falling off his unstable treadmill. Actually, I had to scroll past the viral image so that I could read this blog. I could see myself comparing myself to those who have made a mark in life doing what the LORD has called me to do as well. I got over it!

  5. Christina Willner January 26, 2014 at 8:43 AM #

    Loved this post. I remember when I designed my first website… it was literally UGLY. But sticking with it was one of the best things I ever did.

    • Bruce January 26, 2014 at 8:49 AM #

      Thank you, Christina. I can totally relate to that! I’m glad you stuck with it! Thank you for taking the time to read my posts.

      Best wishes,

Leave a Reply