You always feel dumb at the beginning
Doing your first chin-up looks ridiculous. You grunt, wiggle, and shake trying to bring your chin up to the bar. It’s embarrassing, especially compared to your athletic workout partner that’s able to do 10 without breaking a sweat.
When you’re starting something new, it’s awkward. You feel uncoordinated, weak, and silly. The humiliation and shame of showing up as an amateur will make you want to run and hide.
But you shouldn’t.
If you want to learn a new skill, your first day isn’t going to feel great (ask anyone who’s tried snowboarding). But mastery isn’t defined by your first day: it’s defined by every day after that.
It’s grueling, it’s practice. When you’re working at something, and trying to get better, it doesn’t feel good. Eventually you do this long enough, and you embarrass yourself long enough, you make progress. — Nate Kontny
Embrace the struggle
Even though we try to avoid it, there’s a lot research that shows that struggle is actually good for us. Annie Paul summarizes this paradox here:
The more you struggle and even fail while you’re trying to master new information, the better you’re likely to recall and apply that information later.
In fact, successful people force themselves into uncomfortable situations. They’re not afraid to look silly at the beginning, because they know that that’s the first step towards mastery.
“I’m not afraid of making a fool of myself. Often I will often say something that later I consider wrong. I don’t mind changing my mind. There’s a 40% chance I’ll be wrong, but that’s OK. That’s the mindset you need to have.”
— Malcolm Gladwell, in his Quartz interview
If you don’t get started, you have a 100% chance of not improving.
“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all — in which case, you fail by default.”
— JK Rowling
My friend Sacha Greif sent me this perfect Adventure Time clip:
You’re not going to be able to avoid that awkward first step: whether you’re writing your first blog post, building your first app, releasing your first podcast, or recording your first video.
Be prepared to look (and feel) dumb.
It’s OK, because you’re taking the time to do the work. Anyone who laughs is just a voice from the sidelines (too scared to step up). And pretty soon you’ll be doing 10 chin-ups without breaking a sweat.
In the wise words of Jake the Dog:
Sucking at somethin’ is the first step towards being sort of good at somethin’
Originally published at justinjackson.ca on November 3, 2014.