On trying something new
A few years ago I had a brilliant (or so I thought) idea to sign up for a group singing class. It was eight weeks long and had about ten students in it. For the first day we were instructed to prepare a song and bring in piano sheet music. Each of us was to take turns singing, with the instructor on the piano providing accompaniment.
When I handed in my sheet music, the teacher almost fell off his chair laughing. Apparently the music was not for the piano nor for any other known instrument. Furthermore, it was some strange interpretation of the song that he had never seen in his 30 plus years on stage. Now, there was no way I could had known that, I cannot read sheet music. The letters above the dots, lines and swirlies, uhm I mean notes, clearly stated the name of my song so I assumed that it was what I needed. I had no choice but to sing a cappella. I stood up, straightened my back, pulled back my shoulders and let it rip.
My singing did not improve things, in fact, it was way worse than my sheet music. It was so bad, that it hurt my own ears to hear myself sing. I was never happier for a song to be over as I was that night.
A normal person would had dropped the class and reverted to performing alone in the car with the widows closed and the music volume turned up high to drown out the noise, uhm, I mean singing. But I told my self: “if I knew how to sing, I would not be paying to take this class. Because I am starting so low, the only way to go is up.” Plus there was this little matter of a non refundable tuition and the fact that I love to sing. I mean totally, madly, head over heels, incorrigibly, beyond hope love to sing.
The instructor assigned me one song, which I practiced for the duration of the eight weeks (everyone else sang several songs). By the end of the semester, I was noted as most improved and everyone was rooting for me as I sang my song one last time. Perhaps they were glad that they would not have to hear that song ever again, but I prefer to think that they were applauding my hard work.
I must say, it was empowering to stand in front of a group of people and sing, especially because I sounded so awful. I felt that if I can do that without shame or embarrassment, I can do anything. Well, almost anything… I still refuse to jump out of a perfectly good airplane or feed the fish for two weeks in order to get my sea legs or go anywhere north of Santa Barbara in the winter. OK, there are many things I refuse to do… the sea legs, I am working on, some day I’ll make it out of the safety of the harbor and live to tell about it.
I wonder, how many of us are afraid to try something new because we do not know how to do it? As in “I want to try such and such but I won’t because it’s new and I don’t know how because I’ve never done it before and I’ll most likely be bad at it because I don’t know how, so I won’t try.”
Here are some of my favorite things I heard people say: “I am so inflexible, I’ll be terrible in yoga.” “I love ballroom dance but I am so clumsy, I’ll just step on my partner’s toes.” “I don’t know the first thing about cooking with spices so I’ll just stick with salt and pepper.” “I’ve never lifted weights before, I’ll look ridiculous at the gym.” “I’ve never run unless a dog was chasing me so I’m not going to train for a 5K.” “I don’t know the first thing about wearing makeup, so I just won’t wear it.” “I don’t have good intuition so I am not going to learn how to develop it.” “The whole energy work is new to me and so I won’t try it.” “I have always wanted to – name a hobby or a profession – but I never learned how and it’s too late now.”
Think about it. What would happen if a child refused to learn how to walk or talk because she had never done it before? Aren’t we, as adults sometimes refusing to learn how to “walk and talk” because we have never done it before?
Doesn’t the whole concept of “leaning” imply that in the beginning we would not know things and possibly be really, really, really bad at whatever it is we are trying to do?
My view is this: when trying something new, of course we will not know everything about it – it’s the definition of NEW. When taking a class, of course we won’t be very familiar with the subject – if we knew everything we would be the ones teaching that class.
So, what if we gave up the desire to know everything and released the need to succeed at every everything we do? What if we realized that it’s ok to be a newbie, it’s ok to not be good at something and still be brave enough to try doing it?
What if we dropped the fear of failure and did not care that we made a fool of ourselves?
What if we surprised ourselves day after day by discovering a new skill, a new talent or a new love?
What if we were a forever a child, excited to learn, to discover, never caring about falling, always getting up and ultimately succeeding at whatever we set our heart on?
Wouldn’t life be more enjoyable then?