I’m laying down in an awkward-as-hell position trying to stretch my back out as I simultaneously think why in the hell am I trying to start a blog too? It’s not like I haven’t got enough on my plate, I definitely do, and I’m also nowhere near the dizzying heights of unheard-of skill that I feel I should be at with those hobbies/goals either. Yet here I sit(lay) at my computer trying to think up the world’s wittiest first blog ever, but I’ve also never written a blog either so my expectations are incredibly unrealistic.
I love that.
Nothing would hurt more than someone telling me I was dreaming of something normal, achievable, realistic. I’m a sucker for those motivational videos, the ones that have you feeling like superman for 5 minutes after watching. Until you sign up for that new class, first try to write the page of your novel, begin learning a second language like you always wanted. Then the excrement really hits the helicopter. It’s the feeling of sitting there, blankly staring at the cursor, waiting for that inspiration you’re sure you had on tap to turn on; and nothing happens.
Normally when I start to attempt something I’ve never done before, whether that’s taking a boxing class, writing a movie script, or learning coding, there’s a self deprecating side to me that jokes with people about how bad I’ll be, just to manage their expectations, so if I do anything semi-decent, I’ll look like a genius.
So if I’m already managing expectations of others, you’d expect that I have realistic goals, and already know the odds are that I’m not going to be a natural prodigy at everything I do.
Yet I don’t. I’m not realistic because subconsciously I always hope/borderline expect, that this is going to be the moment I discover I’m actually a savant boxer, musician, writer, (insert your hobby of choice here), and this is my path. This leads to the inevitable let down when I complete my first class and discover my cardio is horrendous, I’ve never really thrown a combo, and that wunderkinds are the abstraction, not the rule. This can lead to feeling a severe lack of motivation, questioning if I’m good at anything, avoiding trying new things altogether, and in the more sooky, self sympathetic days, wondering why poor me wasn’t given some clearly set path to greatness.
How could I stop this feeling of “pulling teeth” when starting something new?
Well there’s a few ideas I’m trying to use, (note use of the word “trying”), because I’m not a natural at changing my thought process either.
- Stop managing other people’s expectations. Don’t do it, don’t joke about how terrible you’ll be at something as a thinly veiled attempt to protect yourself in case you do suck at something. If you’re naturally terrible and someone notices, that’s okay, others are naturally terrible at things. Even the titans of industry and arts that we look up to suck at something. Michael Jordan might be the naturally least-talented podcaster ever*.
- Focus on what you want to get out of the first step. Look at it as a standalone lesson initially, not how you’re going to make millions of dollars and billions of insta-subs. You’re taking up Spanish, cool, focus on learning 10 new words, that’s a success. Writing a poem? Tremendous, write 10 lines, good or bad, not aiming for a Pulitzer here. Define what you’re aiming for, and as much as I hate to say it, accept the odds are that you’re not a genius at it.
- Enjoy the work. The overwhelming majority of people we view as successful in their chosen fields haven’t made it to where they are from a divine stroke of luck, why should you be different? Concentrate what efforts you are willing to invest into learning and plying your trade, and appreciating the steps along the way. You may very well begin as shockingly bad, then six months later you’re average. Or, starting at average, in a year you might find you’ve become quite good at a skill…the point is that you’re growing. Sometimes the work can be repetitive or frustrating to get past, but that builds resilience as well.
- Just because you aren’t elite at something doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. This one is a tough point that I personally struggle with a lot, I continuously am ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater in that if I feel like I’m more than likely not going to become great at something, I’m wasting my time practicing it. I have to accept now, at 25 years of age and not a naturally talented footballer, I’m not going to make it to being a professional. Sounds stupid, but this still stings, because the wheeling and dealing part of me thinks, if I just put in enough work, and stars align enough, I could make it there I’m sure. I can’t, but it’s still fun to think maybe. I’ve got other things to do with my time though that I know is a better return on my investment. I still play football, but it’s a purely enjoyment thing. I’m not trying to make it to paid level, I get a bit better most years, but I’m doing it cause I get a buzz out of running around tackling like a lunatic, trying to play my best game yet, every game I play.
These are just some thoughts, what are some other ways to help maintain ambition enough to try something new, but also not expecting a miracle out of every attempt?
*Note, I don’t know if Michael Jordan has tried podcasting, this was just an example…Mr. Jordan, if you ever read this, please don’t take this as a personal challenge to destroy me in the world of podcasting please and thank you.