One of the most basic ways to grow as a human being is to try something new. Do something you’ve never done before. Break out of your comfort zone.
New situations challenge us. Our brains have to work at full capacity to understand new patterns instead of just rerunning old ones. In completely new situations, we’re like fish out of water. It may feel uncomfortable and awkward, and our performance will probably be lousy. But this is a terrific way to grow. This is the kind of challenge our neural nets were made for.
How much newness do you experience in your life? Are you frequently meeting new people, finding yourself in new situations, and getting out of your comfort zone? Are you doing things that make you feel awkward?
One of my favorite expressions is: There never was a winner who wasn’t at some point a beginner. I first heard it from Denis Waitley. This is a great reminder that if we wish to grow, we have to endure that awkward beginner phase.
Sometimes you can randomly pick something you don’t know much about and then just dive in and learn it. If it doesn’t hold your interest, you can stop after learning the basics and move onto something else. But if you like it, you can stick with it for a while. It’s possible to learn very quickly if you can get past the fear of being a beginner. Give yourself permission to completely suck for a while whenever you try something new. By making it OK to be a beginner, you remain open to learning. No matter how good your skills get in any area of life, never allow yourself to think of yourself as too much of an expert on anything. Don’t let your ego get wrapped up in your results. Ego just gets in the way of learning. When you tell yourself you’re an expert, you close your mind to many learning experiences.
When you keep branching out and learning new things, especially those that are a real stretch for you, you also develop the skill of learning itself. And that’s an extremely potent skill to have. I’ve been through this process so many times that I’m able to learn new things very quickly now. No matter what I attempt, I’m never any good when I first start out. My initial performance is no better than anyone else’s, and sometimes it’s horrific. I don’t seem to be a natural at anything. But I try to move quickly in the beginning and get those first several attempts out of the way. This gives me a long list of things I need to correct. I go to work on those elements via private practice until I feel I’ve just risen above the level of total idiot. Then more performing, more feedback, and more private practice. The faster I cycle, the sooner I develop some basic competence.
Ego has no place in this process. It’s perfectly OK to be bad at something. If you aren’t doing things you suck at, you aren’t challenging yourself enough. Go out and have some fun failing. What I enjoy about failing in group activities is that I get to watch other people succeed. I revel in other people’s talents.
I love watching talented people perform at their best. They serve as an inspiration for me to do better.
If there’s one thing I want to be the best in the world at, it would be growth itself. I’m excited by all the new things I’ve yet to experience on this planet.
Don’t allow yourself to become complacent. Complacency is a horrible thing to do with a human life. As Earl Nightingale said, we humans shouldn’t be settled. We need to keep things stirred up.
All it takes to get started with something new is a phone call or an email. Just think of someone you know who’s doing something remotely interesting, and tell that person, “I’d love to give X a try. Can you help me get started?” Don’t put it off. Pick up the phone or start typing an email right now. What you decide to try isn’t as important as that you simply try something. Try anything.
There’s more to life than your cubicle. Don’t be a Dilbert. Leave the comfort of your cozy bear cave every now and then. Soak up some sun.