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Chase the Discomfort of Being a Beginner

I was recently back home in Ohio visiting my family and I found myself sitting at the grand piano in the house with my “bonus dad” (who happens to be a wonderfully talented musician).

I used to play when I was much younger. I had been recalling recently how much joy it gave me and how I always felt such a sense of peace when my fingers hit those 88 keys.

I was telling my dad how for the past couple of years I had been toying with the idea of buying a piano so I could start playing again. The problem is…I don’t remember how.

As a sat there with him, he graciously started running through the different chords with me. Majors, minors, diminished, then augmented.

Although I struggled through it, it started to come back. Through those moments of stumbling, I had moments of getting it right. The rush of excitement, pride, and joy I felt when he would look at me and say, “THAT’S IT”, was worth all the wrong notes I played before that.

This is all to say that it’s not easy being a beginner. Wouldn’t it be nice to throw on a pair of skis, head up the toughest mountain and effortlessly rip down a Black Diamond? Sign me up. But…

It’s hard not to be good at something.
I think it’s our human nature to want to be good at something right away.

I find it difficult to give myself the grace to be a beginner. To just be bad at first without beating myself up about it and expecting to be some kind of expert as soon as I start.

I was having a conversation with someone recently about learning a new language and how it’s difficult for adults.

“Think about a young kid when they are learning a new language,” he told me. “They don’t make any sense. They are learning new words and trying to put sentences together, but a lot of times (especially at the beginning) it’s hard to even understand them.”

They just aren’t that great at it yet, but they don’t care and they don’t even know they aren’t that good at it yet. They just fumble through it until they are communicating with ease.

For adults, on the other hand, it’s not that simple. We often are afraid of looking silly or not getting it right, so we’ll avoid putting ourselves in that position of discomfort. We judge ourselves or are afraid of external judgment. There’s a sense of needing the be “more fluent” before we even try.

But we don’t learn if we don’t try.

The thing is most people don’t get great, or even good, right away. That takes practice, repetition, and the willingness to be ok with getting it wrong…a lot.

These recent lessons have reminded me lately to fully step into the discomfort of beginning something new. It’s hard! And so often we give up because we aren’t willing to go through the moments of frustration, uncertainty, and difficulty that it takes.

Whether it’s learning a new skill, a software program, a social media channel, an instrument, or a language, my challenge for you is:

Be MESSY,
Be AWKWARD,
Get EMBARASSED,
LAUGH at yourself, and
Find JOY in the process.

Beginners don’t stay a beginner for long.
They even start to figure it out. Or they quit.

In the spirit of accepting the messy, the awkward, and the embarrassing…
“I love being a beginner. It can be a terrible feeling because you’re ashamed of everything you do, but it’s so exciting at the same time.”
Charlotte Gainsbourg

Ryan Berman
Ryan Berman
Ryan is an author, keynote speaker, and the founder of Courageous. His book, Return on Courage, shows how during these courage deficient times, courage is a competitive advantage for those leaders who choose to unlock it.
Twitter @ryanberman | LinkedIn @ryanberman

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