No question about it, learning a new skill is hard, it’s scary, and at times it’s embarrassing. But recall your reward every time you did something you didn’t think you could do. It is a thrill to learn. It is something no one can take away from you. You earned your right to say, “I know what I’m doing.”
In 1996, I learned how to use email. I have started the process in 1994. Obviously, I wasn’t a fast learner. Over and over I tried, and over and over I got it in wrong. I felt so stupid because everyone around me seem to get it on the first try. They made it seem easy, but for me, it was a nightmare. Forget about using email, I couldn’t even install the software.
I didn’t fare much better when learning to use my VCR. Nor was it a day at the park when I tried to learn how to make changes to my website. Technology is a challenge area, the area where, if given a chance, I would give up before getting started. But it wasn’t the only area where I risked looking stupid and made lots of mistakes. I speak for a living, and people say things like, “you’re so inspirational,” “you’re such a good speaker,” “you never seem afraid, and “how can you get up there and tell those things about yourself?” Yet for every time I do well on the platform, there are on memories of times I bombed, and bomb big time.
One painful memory was when I was invited to speak at an event for 30 minutes. I froze as I looked at the audience of 900 people. I couldn’t believe I was expected to talk to that many people for that period of time. I cried, went blank, and, five minutes later, sat down embarrassed and ashamed.
In the past, each time I tried something and didn’t get it the first time, I wanted to give up. It felt like the end of my world. But I didn’t give up. There are even days when I know what I’m doing and still feel like I’m off the beam. And on those days, I just don’t give up.
Today I know whatever I’m experiencing is part of my learning process, whether it’s using my computer or speaking in front of an audience. My job is to remain teachable.
The following are my tips on learning a new skill:
Be teachable. The hardest thing for some of us is to admit we don’t know. If the first step in any improvement process is being teachable: admitting you don’t know something and asking for help.
Ask for help. Have the courage to seek out help from those who know, whether from a life coach, consultant, specialist, classroom instructor, or anyone else with the skills you need.
Allow yourself to make mistakes. You don’t have to do it perfectly the first time, or the first five times. There is always a learning curve to developing a new skill. Often it’s in making mistakes that you get to understand the process.
Practice your new skill. There is much truth to the saying “practice makes perfect.” But I like to say “practice makes better.” The more you practice your new skill, the better you become.
Identify three skills that would make you a better employee, parent, spouse, or simply a more rounded person. Perhaps this week, you’ll sign up for that college or computer class. What about classes on riding horses, piano playing, painting, or cooking? Whatever it is, think of something you’d like to learn. You have permission to go for it. The more you do it, the easier it will become. Remember you can do it!