Want to Go from Beginner to Pro? Then Trade In Your Ego for Some Training Wheels
Let’s face it, we live in a culture that craves, expects, and outright demands instant gratification. We want to lose weight
in 30 days in one day NOW. We see an amazing gadget on the internet and we want it delivered to our door by 8 am tomorrow morning. And heaven forbid if the movie we want to watch isn’t already on demand and queued up in our Netflix/Comcast account, because that means we may actually have to drive to one of those archaic brick and mortar stores to pick it up!
I wish I was being facetious. But if I am brutally honest with myself, I fit this pattern in various aspects of my life. You probably do as well.
I also believe we have this same desire and exception when it comes to learning a new skill or hobby. We see an amazing landscape portrait at local gallery and then we find ourselves at a local art shop gearing up to be the next Picasso tomorrow. We see a guitarist light it up on stage and now we’re already planning a career as the next Jimmy Hendrix.
But before you get ahead of yourself…
The Single Most Frustrating Thing You Can Do When Learning a New Skill
…is to skip the basics and try to complete a task at an expert level.
A great example is in the arena of sports. I had the great fortune of being a track and field athlete and a coach over a period of 15 years. And I learned early on that the best way to kill an athlete’s morale was to give them what a naive athlete wanted… to skip the boring drills and only focus on the end performance.
But focusing only on the end performance is frustrating, counter productive, and frankly dangerous. Imagine giving someone a pole vault pole, providing them with zero training, and just sending them down the runway at full speed in an attempt to clear 12 feet? Don’t be surprised if they end up with a concussion or worse.
I’ve also seen people try to hurdle with no basic training. The result can range anywhere from a bruised knee to an all out face plant. Hell, even after a decade’s worth of practice, I still would have the occasional slip up! I once hit a hurdle so hard during a race that I flipped and almost knocked myself out cold.
Slow Down to Speed Up
In track and field, the fastest way to a performance goal for a technical event was to slow down and isolate each movement. For hurdlers, this involved doing a tremendous amount of drills against the wall or even walking over smaller hurdlers to get the cadence and rhythm. And by doing things super slow, we were able to train the muscles to understand the proper positions and coordination.
Only after doing this for quite some time did it make sense to speed up and start combining multiple components at once. And when we did that, ultimately some things would fall to pieces again and we would go back to slow motion drills or isolating certain components.
How powerful is the “slow down to speed up” methodology? I vividly remember one athlete who was so uncoordinated that I frankly thought Coach Taylor would eventually give up on making her a steeple chase runner. It just didn’t seem to come naturally to her. Her trail leg didn’t want to go in the right spot and her hips would torque a lot and get all wonky. But coach kept her there and she kept at it.
Fast forward 2-3 years and I remember my shock and surprise to find out that she had:
- Won the NCAA Division 3 championship
- Destroyed the previous division 3 record
- Beat all but 2-3 athletes in Division 1 and 2.
- Ranked in the top 50 performances in the world for that year.
Not bad for an athlete who could barely get over a hurdle just a few years earlier!
The Basics Never End
In a televised interview with the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Flea was ragging on Anthony Kiedis (the lead singer) for the strange vocal exercises that Anthony used to warm up before each concert. It was a collection of weird swooning sounds, jaw stretches, tongue twister phrases, and other exercises that did look pretty silly. But honestly, who cares? If that is what it took to put on an amazing performance each and every time, it was clearly worth doing.
Can you give up the basics? Sure… for a while. But then flaws may creep in and the very foundation that launched you into a level expertise can erode away.
Trade In Your Ego for Some Training Wheels
We would never expect a 5 year old child to be able to write a full length novel or play Mozart on their very first attempt. Instead, we nurture them, we encourage them, and we set a realistic set of expectations in our belief systems.
We also know that they may look a little silly in the beginning. When a child learns to walk, we don’t criticize the fact that they might look a little drunk and wobble and fall to the ground. We don’t tell a 3 year old that their crayon drawing sucks because they colored the bear blue and went 2 inches outside the lines. We know that, in the end, this is training period where they are going to figure a lot of things out… and they may decide they like drawing outside the lines for the rest of their life on purpose.
Adults need training wheels too. And sure, we may look a little silly if we’re trying to learn to ski and we’re on the bunny slopes at age 40. But it’s something we all gotta suck up and deal with. We would never send a 5 year old down a double black diamond trail on their first attempt, so why would we expect anything different for us?
You may look silly doggy paddling through a pool wearing water wings while teenagers swim circles around you. Or may look awkward trying to learn to ride a bike and falling over again and again. Or you may feel embarrassed using a paint by numbers kit to learn the basics of how to stroke a brush before diving into a blank canvas with no direction.
We all have to look a little silly at some point in the learning cycle when compared to the end goal performance. But I promise you, if you slow down to speed up and take the time to learn something slowly in the beginning, you’ll be the Evil Kenevil of your craft in good time (but never forget that you will still have to put in said time no matter what).
Training Wheels to Get You Started
- Books: Find someone who’s done it before and gives you a step by step plan.
- Mentor: Find someone you can talk to, get pointers, and feedback.
- College: Take a class and really immerse yourself in the topic you want to learn.
- Self-Study Programs: It’s like a classroom at home.
These are just some suggestions to get started, but be creative.
Photo by sgym@622 used under the creative commons.
About Rick Manelius
I'm a Drupal Ninja (brown belt), an aspiring author, a personal development fanatic, and an overall explorer of life. I own SoundPost Media, LLC— a Drupal agency that works with small to medium sized media compaies looking to improve their presence on the web. Stick around by subscribing to my feed, following me, or simply leaving a comment below. I appreciate you stopping by!