Embracing your Inner Beginner

Image from www.doremejourney.blogspot.com

Image from www.doremejourney.blogspot.com

“I didn’t see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” ~ Steve Jobs

In this time-pressured life of ours, where everything is vying for our attention and our money, and where there is so much emphasis on success, I’ve observed something that saddens me greatly.  Most grown-ups I know are more and more reluctant to be a beginner.

Oh sure, people want to try new things.

But they try new things based on hoping or expecting that they’ll be good at it, and if they aren’t they quickly move on to something else.

Even worse, I know people who won’t even start something because they feel they should have begun learning that thing twenty years ago. Starting late they may never go on to have the results they’d dreamed of.

But do we need to do everything for an external validation of success?

And what happened to the joy of being a beginner, embracing our curiosity, and giving ourselves permission to be REALLY bad at something, in order to perhaps become better, one day, with practice? What happened to doing something just because it makes us happy?

Sometimes the picture in our mind of how we should look/act/sound/perform/create prevents us from getting out there and having fun or giving shape to our most cherished dreams!

Often, when we embrace new things, where we end up looks nothing like we’d expected, but is wonderful and enriching anyway.

The Sydney Banjo Band - www.sydneybanjoclub.blogspot.com.au

The Sydney Banjo Band – www.sydneybanjoclub.blogspot.com.au

A friend of mine took some singing lessons and joined a local choir. He’ll never have a recording contract, or be a household name, but he has found out that he loves to sing and to perform, and he’s made some terrific friends.

Another friend of mine went to an embroidery class with her mother, to give her lonely mother an outing and perhaps spark an interest. Instead my friend’s interest was sparked.  Years later she makes commissioned pieces such as christening gowns, bunny rugs and heirloom blankets for family and friends.  It’s not a full-time job, just a much-loved hobby, but it has shaped her life and given it extra passion and meaning.

A client, who had wanted to be a doctor, ended up married young and being a full-time mother instead. When her marriage ended, long after her children had grown, she decided to go back to study. She was very much a beginner, and had to first complete high school subjects, learn how to use a calculator and computer, and then learn the language of academia – how to study, how to submit papers and so on.  It was a long road, and she was older by far than everyone else in her class.  She graduated at age 64, and now has a job in a rural community as a general practitioner. Allowing herself to be a beginner wasn’t easy but it changed her life!

Image from alpbuzz.blogspot.com

Image from alpbuzz.blogspot.com

Being a beginner is a powerful creative and spiritual act.  Giving ourselves permission to be a beginner takes all the pressure off, and enables us to better enjoy the ride.  Maybe we’ll be good at that thing, maybe we won’t. Maybe it will take time (yes, really!) to know if this new thing is for us, or if we will in fact ever have some small measure of skill. But every journey to a new place teaches us something, and often leads us in unexpected directions.

So today I’m encouraging you to embrace your inner beginner.

Do something simply to try it out.  Do it for the fun of it. Do it without caring about the outcome, or your productivity level.  Do it badly.  Do it laughingly.  Do it earnestly, and with devotion. Because new experiences enrich us, they sharpen our minds and keep us young at heart. They help us grow. And most importantly, in a place of newness, devoid of expectation, miracles happen in the form of transformation…

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26 thoughts on “Embracing your Inner Beginner

  1. Hi Nicole
    Love this post. Each & every day offers new & wonderful opportunities to create & learn. You never know what new passion can be ignited unless you step up to the plate & take a swing! Great that you included a photo of the Sydney Banjo Band….I started learning banjo four years ago (at age 54) & absolutely love it. The people I have met (of all ages) are fabulous, some of them VERY talented musicians, but always willing to help a struggling fellow ‘picker’. Lots of fun & laughter amid the music making.
    Moya ♥

  2. Last year I joined a karate class. Our oldest member is 69, who joined because her daughter was so keen. We have children as young as seven who get to be brilliant if they keep it up to 18, and we enjoy the chat, the exercise, the spiritual discipline and the fun of it. And nine months in I get better. I will get better still.

  3. I would love to learn yoga and once I’ve had my baby I would love to learn to jog…….. Oh and sew, I would love to sew more….. simple goals!!! Just need to get settled in the new house…. 2 more weeks at the inlaws!!!!!!

    • Great goals, and hooray for nearly being in your new home! My mum and sister have the sewing bug. So did my grandmother. There is always one woman in our family who is sewing in a zipper, stitching on buttons or hemming a frock as we head out the door to some party or other.

      And my favourite vintage fashions are invariably hand made.

      Good luck with those goals this year. And BTW, they have some great mum and bub yoga classes. Sadly I don’t qualify for those, and taking Harry the puppy would not quite be the same… 😀 xx

  4. The thing I love about being a beginner (at guitar, art, swimming) is it gives me a greater appreciation for my kids 🙂 it can be frustrating being a beginner sometimes!! We so often rush around in our competencies as adults … and – even if kindly – ‘judge’ our children’s progress in things. Being a beginner helps me remember aaaallll the things they are beginners at, and marvel at their courage daily 🙂

      • Margaret,
        I’m also learning guitar. Being a beginner reminds me that I can model a whole heap of values for my son… of patience, of being okay with imperfection, of having sore fingers, of not having to have everything now… of a small and slow build to mastery.

        He was so enamoured with my guitar, we got him one for Christmas and we’re looking forward to learning together this year.

        Taking the time to learn something new reminds me of the beauty and thrill of small victories and the immersion that comes with total concentration. It’s the best kind of meditation and mind clearing I’ve found in years.

  5. This post is so wonderful for anyone wishing they’d had, or continued, piano lessons, or for parents, like Margaret, above, to help them appreciate what their children are going through, I would love to reblog it, if you don’t mind.

  6. As people often say on your blog Nicole, this post could have been written for me. I understand and agree with everything you say here, the hard part is convincing my inner critic. I’m working on it…

  7. In 2012 I wanted to begin two things: running and playing guitar.

    In December I realised it was time to get things moving. I told my Dad I wanted running shoes for my birthday and my darling, that I wanted a guitar for my birthday. Somehow in passing on my passion I hoped to set foot on the path I’d struggled to get onto all year.

    In the last week of December I took my new running shoes out for their first run… only a small one but it felt so good to have my body moving like that. Of knowing that a good pair of shoes will allow me to run. On the night of my birthday I tuned my new guitar and set myself the goal of learning a dozen chords by the end of the year (I made it to 10!)

    My legs hurt from running, my fingers hurt from playing… and I’ve never been happier.

    There is something amazing and freeing in not having to be perfect at something. Because at teh end of the day, humans are only perfect at one thing: being imperfect!

    Such a blessing to have found your blog!

  8. This is just so beautiful and gentle. Thanks for writing this and reinforcing that other ways to exist do exist and can be wildly fulfilling. This winter I committed myself to a Novel Writing Winter to finally put down a book that has been swirling in my head for decades. And I love hearing the stories of others who have pursued their inner beginner! So at 56 I’m rocking on!

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