Surviving Beginner’s Hell
When nothing works and everything sucks
Our heroes personify mastery while we wobble like three year olds. How did they get so good? We stare at our shaky hands and feeble attempts, clutching work so terrible we pretend it isn’t ours.
We want to express ourselves. We thirst to give back and create value for those around us. We crave to make this life thing a wee bit better for everyone involved.
But everything we want to do seems so grand. Too gigantic. Maybe we’re not ready for the Big Leagues.
Our skittish minds betray us. Leave the worthwhile problems for more qualified people. I’m just average. Who am I to do great things?
If you can recognize greatness you are capable of it. The key is to dream BIG but act SMALL. Baby steps. Fall often pick yourself back up and keep going. Make it stupid easy to START DOING THE THING AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. RIGHT NOW.
Mindset, discipline and desire. That’s the infrastructure for success right there.
Keep Giving a Shit
Beginner’s hell is found in all creative endeavors. It’s a glorious wretched paradise where disappointment throws rambunctious orgies and improvement eludes you at every turn.
Beginner’s hell doesn’t last forever. Most people just give up too soon.
If beginner’s hell seems fucking ENDLESS, chances are you’re on the right path. Beginner’s hell is proportional to our tastes, expectations and ambitions. It grows bigger as we recognize great work all around us. Our killer taste in good shit is what makes us look at our own efforts disapprovingly. This is normal and generally means we’re doing something worth a hoot.
So why bother suffering such risk and uncertainty?
We feel push back every day. A force trying damn hard to stop us from getting anything done.
The Resistance sucks. It exists in our monkey minds scared of failure and terrified of success. The Resistance wants us to do absolutely nothing. It’s processed sugar that feeds our inner procrastinator with sweet lies and poison. “Don’t start because you’ll never be that good. Don’t bother because it’ll take too long. Start tomorrow. Start when your life is in order.”
Junk food for the soul.
Truth is we don’t suck. Maybe our work sucks right now but honestly who gives a flying fuck. So what if there’s a huge gap between our current skill level and those of masters we hope to surpass. We recognize that distance because we give a shit about our work. Because we take pride in what we do.
Keep giving a shit. Too few people do.
Everyone goes through beginner’s hell. Especially the greats. Everybody was a beginner at some point. It doesn’t matter how early or late you are to the party.
Life’s a marathon — not a sprint.
Screw the What Ifs. Start Now
Surpassing beginner’s hell takes mindset, discipline and an unquenchable desire to do the best we can. It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to fall flat on our faces. A lot. There will be days where the Resistance is so strong we’ll want to throw everything away in hyper-theatrical fashion.
Hold the melodramatic soliloquies. Screw the what ifs. You’ve got big dreams and big ambitions. They’re absolutely bonkers and terrify your waking life. That’s normal and perfectly okay. Act on it and you’ll be on the right path.
Start small. Start now.
Failure and success exist to help get you closer to mastery. There’s a lesson to be learned from every experience. It’s up to us to perk up and pay attention. Mindset underlies everything that we do. We can’t control external circumstances but we can control how we perceive and react to them. Crack open some philosophy and they’ll chirp similar melodies. Taoism, Stoicism, Buddhism, Anyism… Every step is a step in the right direction. Even if it feels like we’re going backward. We’re showing up to play and that’s what counts.
“On the other side of the Resistance is the Flow”
Flow is beautiful. The Zone. It’s one of the secrets to happiness and it makes every shitty moment worth it. When you enter a state of Flow time doesn’t matter nothing matters because you’re fully here in the present moment doing something you love. Adopt a learner’s mindset of curiosity and wonder. Flow will find you.
No need to take life so seriously. It can only kill you.
We all have good days and bad days. We’re human after all. The hallmark of a champion is the ability to deliver rain or shine. Most of us give up or skip out on what we ought to do when we don’t feel like it. We all procrastinate.
Too bad. The elevator’s broken. Getting through beginner’s hell requires climbing the stairs toward mastery one tiny step at a time.
Thankfully there’s no need to go full on draconian gung-ho. Discipline is actually pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. Shut off the noisy chatter in your brain that’s worried about outcomes. What ifs are unnecessary distractions. Discipline focuses on processes and doing what needs to be done. Don’t be so quick to judge whether your work is good or bad.
Focus on the process. This project. This painting. This piece.
Every little bit adds up. The individual threads of your daily habits weave the unique tapestry of your craft. You’ll be so focused hustling on the grind that those massive improvements only become noticeable in retrospect.
Make it painless to start and we’re off to the races. Doesn’t matter how silly. Want to write a novel? Aim to write one sentence a day. Just one (Disclaimer: You’ll end up writing more).
But you have to do it every day. Watch what happens.
Why are you putting yourself through beginner’s hell anyway? I sense hunger in your eyes and passionate fire coursing through your veins.
Find the WHY — THIS IS FUCKING IMPORTANT.
That desire will warm you during those lonesome nights of failure and defeat. It will light the way when you’re lost in dark forests of confusion and self-doubt. It will be your compass when life suckerpunches you off course.
It’s the shit worth fighting for. Worth suffering for.
Call it what you want. Passion. Purpose. Calling. Intention. Whatever.
You won’t make it without desire. Desire is what stops you from giving up. It’s what makes you fight through the pain when your mindset and discipline are at its limits.