About a year and a half ago I bought a guitar. I researched different brands, looked all around for the best deal, was super excited, and bought it. I’ve always wanted to learn how to play. I even sent some emails and made some phone calls to guitar teachers. I got some emails and calls back, but never set anything up or returned the calls. I got too “busy”. Eventually, I read a Facebook post by Tim Ferris that said he watched a random guy perform on the piano at the airport while everyone waited for the flight. I thought to myself how cool that would be (with whatever musical instrument) and right then and there called a guitar instructor and set my first appointment. In that moment, I realized…
Busy is bullshit
As I get older, I realize “busy” is just another word for lazy. Wake up earlier, ditch the tv time, stop checking Facebook. Make a commitment to something and just do it. It’s surprising how easy it is to find time when you’re committed. And guess what? As you get better at whatever you’re committed to, you’ll find yourself wanting more. More and more I’m realizing that the “first step” is the hardest. And, I know that’s a cliche but it’s so true. You see, no one likes being bad at something but you’re going to have to accept…
You are absolutely going to suck at whatever you start initially
Like, without a doubt. But here’s the cool thing: You WILL get better. You don’t have a choice, there’s only up from where you start. And as you get better, you will gain confidence, and that confidence will breed into competence.
Anything I’ve ever started I was AWFUL at. I remember numerous times in MMA/BJJ I wanted to quit because I was so bad. I remember walking out of the room numerous times wondering if I would EVER “get it”. Guess what though? I did. It took time. It took practice. It took mental toughness to keep going despite getting my ass handed to me. But eventually, I got pretty good at it.
Same thing with guitar, and same thing with writing (two of my current new skill projects). I was embarrassingly bad at both! So bad at guitar in fact, that I called my friend Rich and my Sister Angelica who both play guitar and asked them if it was possible that my fingers were just too short or fat to physically be able to play! Thankfully, after 2 months of dreadful practice I realized that wasn’t the case.
In terms of writing, I didn’t realize how hard it was to put words on a page/screen when I first started. I was AWFUL at it. But with a year of practice, I’ve gone from completely hopeless to very average. And, while that may sound like a long time to just be average at a skill (and, we never want to be average) I’m ok with it because…
Nothing takes the place of persistence
I’ve probably used this quote in my writing before and I’ll continue to do so because it’s so amazing.
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
That’s the great thing about chasing skill competence. While some people may just “get it”, that just means they have a head start. It DOES NOT mean they will always have the edge. The second they get complacent or let up, you’ll be ready to overtake them by persistently and deliberately practicing. As Calvin Coolidge said, nothing beats persistence..and he’s right. But, only if you make sure you’re implementing…
I’ve been reading a lot about deliberate practice recently and really believe in it. What’s the difference between practice and deliberate practice you ask? Why should you do one and not the other? I’ll give you two examples of non-deliberate practice:
1) The guitar player who learns some chords and strumming patterns and never works on finger picking or any other advanced guitar skills.
2) The basketball player who works on his dribbling and shooting non-stop but neglects his passing or defensive skills.
You see, to become great at something, you must encompass all the qualities of the greats. You must practice for a purpose, and you must strengthen your weaknesses. Because, while being great at a few things in your skill may help you advance to a high level, you will never be a great without deliberate practice and persistence. If, however, you can humble yourself, “embrace the suck”, and make your weaknesses your strengths, then over time you will be in a position to master your skill.
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
I spoke with a friend last night and asked her the same question. It’s thought provoking and often times humbling. So often we get caught up in “life”. We have dreams, goals, and desires that we’ve always wanted to see through, but rarely do because we get “too busy”, we’re scared, or we feel stuck. That’s heartbreaking.
It’s heartbreaking because we’re designed for more! Designed to accomplish and experience great things, yet it’s so easy to get complacent in life. Wherever you are in life, whatever you do, make it your mission to have a good answer to this question every time it’s asked. Learn how to play a instrument, learn a new language, switch careers, go back to school, start the business you’ve always wanted to start. Do something for the first time. Do something out of the ordinary. Take the first step. It’s always worth it.