I’m not the most techno-hip person on the planet. I mean, I am competent but I do have a natural learning on many aspects of “getting myself out there.” Conventional wisdom says to not show my growing pains – that’s not professional and it is un-attractive. But I know that being grounded in “what is” is the only way to sustainably grow.
I have done the work, built the muscle behind my services, readings, classes, for over 30 years, but I didn’t start pushing myself out of my comfort zone in a huge way until November 2010. I’ve had clients in England, India, Pakistan, Australia, Canada, Singapore, Japan, as well as all over the US for many years. But the business of growing my business and marketing I have put off as long as I could.
I have clients who are in the profession of marketing. They tell me that my skill level at my work far exceeds my skill level (so far) at marketing and raising awareness of my work. They tell me that can be confusing to people – people can confuse my presentation and marketing skill with my professional skills. I said, “Maybe.” and went about making my next marketing blunder.
My most recent one has been the newsletter – not knowing that many people were getting them without any content!
I am writing about this because we are all prejudice against the learning process in some way. Heck, in our culture we get congratulated for our perfect pictures! On job interviews it is one of the best things you can say about your “weaknesses” – “I’d have to say I’m pretty much a perfectionist.” Yet we collectively agree that not being good at stuff is unattractive. It can be perceived as funny, or pathetic, or sad, but mostly it is something none of us want to be seen as – ignorant.
But ignorance is a temporary state. As soon as the decision is made to learn something, then you are in “learning curve”. Still, not something our collective culture has much patience for, but really – learning is invigorating! Learning is a lot of fun! I love making mistakes (when I’m not mad at myself for them!) Making mistakes is learning!
Miles Davis said “Do not fear mistakes. There are none.”
“Sometimes you have to play a long time to be able to play like yourself.”
“Don’t play what’s there; play what’s not there.”
Just think of all the things that you’d like to do but don’t do because you “aren’t good” at them – yet. And you can’t get good at them until you start doing them badly.
We have hidden mistakes as though they were shameful. Shame is “I am bad” while guilt is “what I did was bad” Mistakes aren’t actually shameful or guilty. Well, some are, but every day, garden variety mistakes can be a joy to make!
I love making mistakes, as evidenced by how often I make them. I love finding things out for myself, gathering my own information about what works for me, and then later I make up reasons "why" it worked, but really I know that it boils down to - what works for me often times "shouldn't" work and wouldn't work for others, but it does for me. And I see that with others as well. What they did would never work for me, but it works, like clockwork, for them. Go figure. The Universe does have a very deep and abiding sense of humor.
As Buddha said:
“There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not getting started.” And these are the only mistakes you can make in life.
Sure, it is exhilarating to be great at stuff. It is a joy to do what you good at when you love what you’re good at. And you know no matter what it is, you didn’t start out that good. Indeed part of the joy you feel is born out of all the time, effort, expense and your self that you invested in the first place. You invested in it – put in the time to learn, to practice, to master whatever it is.
Only things can’t be practiced and mastered in a vacuum. Most things in life you will have some quantity of audience for, even if just yourself. And the more you are determined to hide or disown your ignorance, the more you can’t even attempt to do in your life. This is a kind of prison, for sure. A kind of oubliette where the only way out is up; up from the judgment, inner-critic, and fears of not looking good while in the learning curve.
Jitterbug Perfume was a favorite book of mine. Tom Robbins started out with Even Cowgirls Get the Blues and went on getting published and gaining a following from there. Great title, but the book has parts of utter brilliance and parts that are not. And with each book he had more brilliance and less – not. This was a lesson to me that the point is not so much to be perfect or brilliant all the time as to just do it all the time, whatever your passion-it is. Don’t wait till you’re prefect to do it – do it till you get great at it. And I must say the joy of doing it really does make up for a lot of skinned knees!
As aspect of what keeps us in hiding and not doing stuff we aren’t great at yet is what I call Perfect Pictures. Perfect Pictures are those staged, set-up pictures – like the kind that hundreds of people-hours-dollars are used to set everything up in a very specific, unnatural way for an ad – those stagnant pictures in our heads that say – if you can’t do it this well, you’ll look stupid so don’t let anyone see until you can do it this good. As if you have a studio backing and supporting you to create the same caliber of image… “If I can’t do it like ____ (prize winner in that field) then I won’t do it at all.” As if this is an appropriate use of self-pride. True self-pride (the good kind) would say, I can do anything I set my mind to, so I will start today and make whatever mistakes I need to make to learn how to do this.
I really like the Carl Jung quote:
“Mistakes are, after all, the foundation of truth, and if a man does not know what a thing is, it is at least an increase in knowledge if he knows what it is not.”
Perfect pictures don’t stop you from becoming an astronaut when you’re 60, but they stop you from branching out, growing and exploring the world that is out of the bounds of what you’ve already gotten good at. Perfect Pictures stop you from taking the first step towards that new life that is refreshing, adventurous and rejuvenating for you. “If I can’t do it great, I don’t want to do it at all.” It’s an Intelligent Design aspect of the wisdom of the Universe that when you don’t care how you look doing it, you do it more and more and in time you get really, really good at doing it.
They say the best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago. The second best time is now. And it is spring - time to start digging.
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