Thursday, March 08, 2007

Embrace The Suck

Apparently there’s a new book out titled Embrace the Suck: A Pocket Guide to Milspeak.
Col. Austin Bay: Iraq war vet, renowned blogger, syndicated columnist, novelist, radio commentator. No writer is more respected on military matters. Now Col. Bay has turned his talents toward creating this first dictionary of “Milspeak”--the soldier's argot that is rich in irony, brutally efficient in conveying the immediacy and dangers of warfare, and can be a shorthand way for separating combat soldiers from fobbits.*

*Fobbit: Derogatory term for soldiers who never leave an FOB (Forward Operating Base)
I heard this story on NPR this morning and – once again due to the strange way my mind works – immediately thought of education (or, more accurately, my recent angst regarding the challenges we face in education).

There are several similar – yet slightly different – takes I found on the definition of “embrace the suck.”
- The 101st had a saying during the initial push into Baghdad - "Embrace the Suck." Which means," Yeah, it's bad, but this is what we do."
- A phrase an officer used to remind his troops that their job is to understand that the suck is supreme and their job is to suck it up and drive on.
- The Operation Iraqi Freedom phrase "embrace the suck" is both an implied order and wise advice couched as a vulgar quip . . . "Embrace the suck" isn't merely a wisecrack; it's a raw epigram based on encyclopedic experience. Face it, soldier. I've been there. This ain't easy. Now let's deal with it . . . "Embrace the suck": Translation: The situation is bad, but deal with it.

So, I’ve decided (for today at least, no promises about tomorrow) to embrace the suck. This is what I do. The situation is bad (please note: my opinion only), but deal with it – suck it up and drive on. (Please also note that I am in no way trying to compare my situation to that of the soldiers in Iraq – or soldiers anywhere. I just like the phrase.) I posted earlier that my goal for this year – naïve as it is – was to change the world. And I posted another time that you can’t change the world by whispering. So I’m vowing to put my head down and move forward. No whispering. No angst (well, okay, some angst, but not too much). Just embracing the suck.


  1. If our work was easy, it wouldn't be nearly as rewarding. Teachers have "embraced the suck" as long as teaching has been around. It's what we do, it's who we are, it's why we're here. Embracing the suck is how we make a difference.

  2. Karl,

    you might like a book titled Jarhead , an account of Gulf War I from a grunt's perspective. It elevates milspeak to an art form. Author is Anthony Swofford.

  3. So, Karl, is your basic premise, "High School sucks. Too bad, too sad?"

    I thought you had rejected that.....

  4. Only the first half Cheryl. :-)

    (Note: No, I don't even agree completely with the first half. But I think we can do much better.)

  5. I don't know if I think things suck but I am having some alternately positive and then disheartening situations at my own campus. Lately for me it feels like a roller coaster of being excited and then being frustrated.

    I feel like sometimes there's a technology versus 'no technology' mentality. Like if I embrace technology I am dissing books.

    It's as to though to some books and the internet are two separate, totally different things.
    When in reality, both blogs or websites involve writing, often very good writing, just as essays or books do. And both are about communicating ideas well. And both are about people.

    So to me, it's still all about communicating ideas and connecting with others through writing.

    (and now lots of other media also).

    I know a lot of curiosity and openness is floating around on our campus, but there's also this sense of friction. Sometimes, although I know people don't always mean it that way, I feel the brunt of it. I try to be thick-skinned because I know change and transition is difficult, but I'm human and I like it when teachers feel excited about the possibilities open to all of us. And I'm disappointed when they don't or when they discourage others.

    I also find it's easy to get myopic when you are so into something and others haven't "gotten" it yet or taken the time to explore it. So I don't want to be that way either.

    I keep thinking about Will Richardson talking about friction points and how the new tools and the new directions they may take schools are in direct conflict with the old direction and so that may be a cause of great friction.

    This is a long post to just say, that although I wouldn't say things suck, there are days, once in awhile like today, that certainly seem too filled with those friction points.

    I've been reading this sort of theme around several blogs lately. And I think maybe it's time to do some reading about the change process so I understand it better. And I want to think about if I am truly seeking to understand others, as Stephen Covey might put it, instead of seeking to be understood.

    Maybe this is an opportunity to deepen my own understanding?

  6. Thanks, Carolyn. I think that's a great point about whether I'm (we're) seeking to understand others or seeking to be understood. While I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking to be understood, I probably do need to make a more concerted effort to understand others. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. Thanks Karl. Those life slogans like "life is good" can now be replaced by "embrace the suck." It certainly describes my life, personal and professional. Now to find a tattoo artist...

  8. Is the situation bad because that’s just how it is? Students stopped caring and are no longer motivated? Maybe subconsciously, all the students decided to create the suck for the teachers.

    But… I don’t know. I wrote the comment about being more than just a number at the beginning of the year. And at the beginning, everyone was fresh and excited. It was a new year with new opportunities. Maybe the only real difference is that everyone settled. The new year was like a new toy, but the excitement of the newness eventually wore off, and everyone settled into the old routine. I think we’ve gotten stuck in a rut and have been working on auto-pilot the last couple months. Embracing the suck.

    We need to get excited again. We may be heading into the 8th or 9th inning down, and it may be looking grim, but I think we can still turn it around to pull off a victory.

    I don’t want to just embrace the suck my last days of high school. I want to eliminate it.

  9. Thanks Rebecca. I wasn't implying that we should accept the suck, just that I - personally - needed to stop whining about the difficulty of changing education and get on with the business of actually changing education, of - as you said - eliminating the suck.

  10. Well said, Karl. Brevity is the soul of wit and grammar, bless it, can block ideas. Embrace the suck would seem to be a motivating maxim--encouraging soldiers/students to make the best of a bad situation--not an expression of pessimism as others here have suggested.

    I discovered Did you Know via Arrington at CrunchNotes who praised its clever wisdom in a recent review. Adding your feed to my daily brain food...