I suck at being a beginner.

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The Hard Truth:

When you start something for the first time, whether it’s dancing, learning an instrument, computer programming, or writing, you’re going to suck at it. That’s just how life is for non-prodigies.

But what happened to me, and what I believe happens to many others who do well in school, is that we were motivated by the wrong things. In school, I was motivated to get good grades — to win at the game of school. And I was pretty damn good at it.

A consequence was that I found myself struggling to pick up anything new, because I wasn’t able to handle the failures and the feelings of competence that come with being a beginner.

Whenever I have the urge to do something, I have to try it immediately. Take skateboarding, for example. I recently pulled out an old board from 2009 and started riding it.

Ten minutes later, I searched “How to do skateboarding tricks” on YouTube. An hour of failed ollies later, I decided I would pick up a different hobby.

If I can’t pick up something quickly or if it doesn’t click right away, I get frustrated and critical of myself. This is a terrible quality of mine, I know, so I am working to fix it.

If my story resonates with you, know that you are not alone.

What to Do

Here are some honest truths that have helped me get over this ridiculously toxic mindset.

  1. Accept that you suck.
    Of course you do, you just started. Get used to it. Use that frustration as motivation.
  2. You’re going to fail.
    That’s the truth, and the sooner you accept it, the sooner you can make real progress.
  3. Set small, reasonable goals.
    For skateboarding, I found a video with much easier tricks, and started learning those first. Celebrate the small successes.
  4. Train in private.
    In non-skating terms, this means learning on your own. You don’t need to post about it on social media.
  5. Treat yourself like your best friend.
    If my best friend had just fallen on her ass 30 times in a row, I’d tell her to take a break and try again tomorrow. If I had just fallen on my ass 30 times in a row, I’d get up and go for 31. Give yourself a break and get back to it tomorrow.
  6. Try the 1–3–1 rule.
    One hour, three times a week, for one month. Whatever you’re doing, keep this routine for a month. After working on it for a month, you’ll often find that you will add extra training days. If not, you probably don’t care enough about what you’re learning.
  7. Keep going.
    If you’re working on something that you’re passionate about, just keep going. Stop to reflect and alter your course if necessary, but don’t stand still for too long. Continue on whatever journey you have decided to embark on.
  8. And don’t stop.
    You can decide to stop, but time won’t. If you wait too long, life will pass you by. Before you know it, you’ll be 80 years old wishing you could do that cool skateboard trick you wanted to learn when you were 19.

Takeaways

Get over yourself.

You are going to fail, and that’s okay. Just don’t quit.

The worst thing you can do for yourself is to stand still.

Stop expecting to be good at everything the moment you try it. Just listen to how ridiculous it sounds. Life’s no fun without challenges.

If you give up on everything, you’re not going to be good at anything.

Avid learner and self-improvement junkie. I write about self, habits, education, and growth.

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