I have a habit of thinking I need to know everything before I start. It’s crazy to think that I have to be an expert and understand everything before I have any kind of experience.
I’ve been trying to recondition myself to not think that way.
When we want to accomplish something we are not yet equipped to handle, we only need to be a practitioner of it, not an expert at it. It’s impossible to be great at something until we start doing it.
Being a practitioner is the first step to mastering any art, craft or skill.
Someone who is doing the work, putting in the extra hours, learning the intricacies of the art, putting in the reps, getting in extra practice, connecting with the people that can help.
Being actively engaged in the art, whatever our art is.
This has been the theme of my mind-scape for the past few months as I prepare to launch one of my most ambitious projects to date.
I constantly worry over the fine details, how things will go over, what I’ll need to do — it’s endless.
Largely, I fear doing very specific activities that I know I’m not any good at:
- Talking in public and initiating conversations.
- Using my voice to inspire and motivate.
- Coalescing my thoughts into tangible ideas I can communicate.
- Making decisions that could impact others.
- Rallying people together towards a common goal.
- Expressing my ideal visions.
- Putting my projects up for public criticism.
- Dealing with the potential of failure, especially in very public ways.
- Connecting with people, especially in person.
- Introducing myself, and others, to other people.
I’ve recognized that every damn one of these are things I’ll have to get better at if I want my “ambitious project” to take off, thrive, and be able to provide value to people that are involved.
And there’s only way I am going to get better at them: doing them, even without any prior experience.
And I’ll likely suck at it.
It’ll be awkward.
I’ll probably feel embarrassed beyond belief.
You know, that uncomfortable hot-and-sweaty sensation?
(Wow, that sounds so encouraging, right?)
My art teacher always talked about the “ugly stages.”
Everything great once looked really ugly in the beginning.
If you were painting a picture, you started out with a blank canvas and began adding strokes of color to it. It didn’t look like anything at all. Even after you put some time into it and it began to resemble something… It was still ugly as hell. But it was progress. Only after spending what felt like countless hours on the project did it look remotely presentable.
Even masterpieces still had to go through “ugly stages,” and they got better with time.
The next time you start your painting, the same thing will happen. It’ll look ugly as hell before it looks like anything “worthwhile.” Only as you continue to work on piece after piece does your results get better.
And that is because you develop expertise naturally — through action.
That’s the mentality I have to take with these other skillsets as I pursue my next big, exciting idea.
Those skillsets will be “ugly” and it’ll be super awkward before I find my voice (perhaps literally).
Confidence doesn’t create action. Action creates confidence.
This is the way of the practitioner.
I just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Work through the awkwardness and the failures before I can get to the better stages. Eventually what I’m trying to do will become natural (or at least not paralyzing).
It’s really easy to fall into the trap of thinking that we have to know it all in advance before we’ve done it. My biggest fear in this project is talking in front of people and making a direct impact on the flow of an event.
But how can I learn to do those things without having actually done them?
I’m willing to bet that I will learn more by actually stumbling awkwardly through it in one night than I will trying to “figure it out” beforehand.
Some things can be learned in advance, but most have to be experienced and felt.
My goal as I pursue my next project is to be a practitioner of awesome.
To be committed to doing the work and going through the “ugly stages” of everything I want to pursue. Today there are only three primary objectives that dominate my heart and mind: becoming a better West Coast Swing dancer, cultivating a Community of Awesome, and becoming independent.
To be a practitioner of West Coast Swing, I have to…
- Go to classes or take private lessons to learn more about the dance.
- Gain experience and exposure through social dances and practice sessions.
- Be relentless about asking questions when I’m uncertain or want to know more.
- Routinely practice by myself or with another person.
- Watch videos of performances for inspiration and break them down to try on my own.
- Research and try to understand musicality and how to fit it into my dances.
- Enter competitions to challenge myself.
- Communicate with other Westies, both experienced and inexperienced.
- Learn from more experienced Westies.
- Help aspiring, less experrienced Westies.
- Get out of my chair and ask for a dance.
To be a practitioner of Cultivating a Community of Awesome, I have to…
- Write down my visions.
- Share my visions.
- Create a manifesto to take action by.
- Recruit to build the population of the community.
- Provide content and value for the community.
- Connect with the community as a whole and individually.
- Ask for critique and feedback as a way to improve the community’s quality.
- Ask for help when I need it.
- Enlist others to help the community thrive.
To be a practitioner of Becoming Independent, I have to…
- Develop new skillsets.
- Find more clients.
- Connect with more people.
- Be a part of a community of likeminded individuals around what I want to achieve.
- Surround myself with people that will challenge me.
- Find a coach or mentor.
- Learn more about an industry.
- Find my own place.
- Go above and beyond to provide more value to others.
These are just a start, but they’re steps that can be taken as a practitioner, not just a talker or dreamer who doesn’t do anything with the dream.
When we choose to be a practitioner of awesome, and accepting that we don’t have to be an expert first, we can relax into the challenges we know we must face.
We can accept that it’s okay to be imperfect, because we know that we will get better by doing the things that push our comfort zones.
Being a practitioner is accepting all the awkward, ugly moments in our life and recognizing that they are only stepping stones, not roadblocks. It’s the sign of leaving the comfort zone — where all the awesome is, waiting for us to come and grab it.
Nobody is going to give me an awesome life.
I have to create it myself.
By being a practitioner of awesome.
Doing awesome things.
In awesome ways.