How to be a beginner

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A master is a beginner who kept beginning.
— Mastin Kipp

Between starting a new business, a new job and a new career, I have had to learn an endless list of new things. In essence, I have had to learn how to be a beginner and how to deal with all the uncertainty which comes with it. Learning something new can seem really daunting, especially as you get older and settle into a life you understand how to operate. When you are young, everything is new and you are in the student mindset; the older we get, the easier it is to slip out of this and think we’ve got it down now. The more you can remember to always be a student first, the easier it is to navigate life changes which bring with it a horde of new skills to learn, new communities to infiltrate and new habits to cultivate.

 

Depending on how you go into it, learning something new can be exhausting and frustrating, or it can be exciting and fulfilling. Sometimes our ego gets in the way of us letting go completely, for fear of looking stupid, fear of failure, fear of inadequacy. However, if we can learn to go into new endeavours as we did when we were children, we would see how much easier we learn when we accept and understand that we really don’t know anything. It doesn’t always come naturally though, so here are a few tips on how to be a beginner:

 

1.    Release expectations. Going into something brand new with expectations of what it should be or how you should be can easily lead to closed-mindedness and easily sets you up for disappointment. Going in with an open mind and an attitude of surrender and allowing means you can really absorb what it is that’s on offer, you can learn without putting roadblocks in your way and every little mistake becomes an interesting lesson, with every little win a huge achievement.

After our first 10K. If the first time I started running I expected to run a marathon next week, I never would have even made it this far.

After our first 10K. If the first time I started running I expected to run a marathon next week, I never would have even made it this far.

2.    Be curious; ask lots of questions. Never stop asking questions. Like an incessant child who answers everything with ‘why?’. Always be curious, never assume you have all the answers. Ask for help from people who have done what you are trying to do. Continue to seek out knowledge, seek out opportunities for you to keep your mind trained on what you are trying to achieve. Adopt the mindset of a student and reap the rewards of an inquisitive mind.

3.    Seek out and be open to feedback. Feedback is a precious thing. Constructive, objective feedback from an expert is a rare treasure. When I was at YTT, I couldn’t get enough of getting feedback. And when you receive constructive criticism don’t just accept it make sure you truly understand it. Ask them to clarify, or say “do you mean like this”, “would it be better if I did this?”. Restate what they’re telling you to cement it in, push yourself to come up with alternative solutions for next time. Lap up every bit of feedback you can get because in many areas of discipline, it becomes more and more difficult to find it and you just have to trust what you’re doing is okay. Ask for feedback and be specific; don’t just ask “was it okay?”, ask about a particular aspect, ask what one thing could be improved. Ask specific questions and you will get specific answers.

Receiving feedback at training

Receiving feedback at training

4.    Keep practicing. Cliché alert: practice makes perfect. Or perhaps more accurately, practice makes progress. You can intellectualise and theorise a skill until you’re blue in the face, but only when you start practicing will you truly understand the nuances to mastering whatever it is you’re trying to master. Only then will you discover your strength and weaknesses and ways to improve. Only then will you have something to seek feedback on. Enjoy this practice, like a child enjoys playing with their toys. That is what you’re doing, you are playing with your new skill. Take off any time limits, deadlines and expectations of when you should get this (see point 1) and then you can just enjoy playing the game.

5.    Embrace failure. You are 100% going to fail at this. And it is 100% necessary. I could spout off endless quotes about how success lies on the far side of failure, and a person learns nothing from their success, only from their failures. The point is, failure is inevitable and a completely necessary part of the journey to success. Failure and success are just extremes on the same sliding scale, the scale of progress. It means you are doing something. I literally fail my way forward daily. Embrace these failures for the beautiful opportunities they are. For lessons, pain points you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise. Weapons in your arsenal going forward. Imagine if a baby stopped trying to walk the first time they fell down.

Did you know I failed my first year of university?

Did you know I failed my first year of university?

 

Choose any successful person you try to emulate, any person in the world you admire for their mastery of any skill and I can assure you, without a doubt, they had to start at the beginning just like everyone else. They started at nothing and became great through perseverance in the face of adversity, embracing failure, taking feedback on board and being always curious. They are never satisfied with accepting something without understanding why and the thought of giving up is simply abhorrent to them. I love a mantra my teacher and friend Candace uses which is “I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m doing it anyway”. Do your research, of course, but the sooner you can get your feet wet and your hands dirty, the sooner you are on the path to success and if you play your cards right, you might just have the best time along the way.

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