Be terrible at something. Go ahead – I’m giving you permission. Now, grant yourself the freedom to absolutely suck.
You see, I have a theory. One of the biggest ways we limit ourselves is fear of failure. It’s a learned response that gets stronger as we get older. Young people try new things all the time. Parents sign kids up for soccer, piano lessons, ballet and all sorts of things that they end up being really terrible at doing. Nobody cares. Some of them, a really small percentage, go on to be proficient. The rest just try something else.
In our teens, we experiment with all sorts of new experiences. In fact – it’s expected – that we’ll try our hand at some really stupid, dangerous and even illegal things. If we survive – and most of us do – we are better off. We learn from it and it shapes us.
Moving into our twenties, we often follow a path that feels predestined: College, marriage, homeownership, reproducing, career. Many of us fail miserably while attempting at least one or two of these major life events. We try, we fail, we pick ourselves up and move on. Nobody blinks.
At some point, however, we become afraid to fail. We swear off committed relationships. We stay in an unfulfilling job. We stop learning new things because we don’t want to do it badly.
We become stagnant.
Somewhere along the road, we get the message that growth is no longer a requirement. It’s not even an option. By the time we turn forty, it’s expected that we have accomplished all of the things we set out to do. We are mature. We are “settled.”
We have stunted our own growth.
I used to have a pin collection. One of my favorites said, “It’s never too late to have a happy childhood.” What if we returned to the days when it was perfectly acceptable to sign up for something because it sounded like fun? Or because our best friend was doing it? Or because we always wanted to try it?
People say to me, quite often, “I could never do that!” Sometimes, they are referring to my completing a manuscript for a novel. Sometimes, they mean starting and leading a meet-up group. Other times, they are talking about my dance class or learning to play the fiddle, at 60.
The truth is, YES, you could do it. Or just about anything else. But there are just a few things you need to be willing to accept, first.
- You’re never, ever too old to learn something new. In fact, the older, the better. Challenging your mind – and body – will not only help you live a longer life, but a better life.
- It is absolutely, 100% okay to be a beginner. Allow yourself to fall down, to look ridiculous and to do something badly. Everyone started out that way and you’re no different. Get over yourself!
- No matter what it is that you want to try, there is a whole community out there of people who are just dying to help you. They will teach you, support you, encourage you, guide you. Best of all, they will laugh with you when you screw up and celebrate with you when you succeed.
Now, what are you waiting for? Put yourself out there. Risk not knowing everything. Ask for help. Do something new and do it badly. Laugh at yourself and keep trying. Learn. Grow. LIVE.