I spent Sunday nights for a full year going to beginner tennis lessons at Baruch College. To my family and close friends I jokingly referred to these as my “humility lessons.” Most weeks, I spent an hour looking idiotic as I failed miserably to hit the ball.
Sure, there were others who were bad, but they also tended to quit after a couple of weeks. Those that persevered had some talent. Except me.
When we are kids, we have so many opportunities to try new things, join activities, and look silly. Then we get older and it is no longer acceptable to be clueless. We begin to do activities we already know and understand.
To some extent, this makes sense. We identify where our strengths and interests lie, and we fill our calendar and our career with those items.
But this sort of thinking can also stifle our success. It hinders our curiosity and causes us to avoid new opportunities.
So I encourage you to practice being bad at things, so that next time you’re in a new scenario, you keep your wits about you.
Choose something low risk: I can afford to be bad at tennis, which makes failing at it a good way to build up that muscle without ruining my life. Choose an activity where the stakes are low so you can ease into it.
Bring a friend: Trying new things alone can be intimidating. Bring a similarly minded friend along so you have someone to commiserate with.
Know when to quit: This isn’t an exercise in misery. After you’ve given it a solid go, feel confident to move on to other things.
Now when I take on new roles, am the most inexperienced person in the room, or don't know the answer to a question, I'm not distracted by that sinking feeling in my stomach.
It could be worse. I could be getting a tennis ball to the face.
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