Here it is. Let’s all take a deep breath.
Become a beginner.
Not an expert. Not yet. First, you must start someplace. A start, a beginning, will humble you and bring you to your knees.
Stay there a while.
Consider what it is to start something. Starting a healthier lifestyle, or a new way of parenting. Starting a creative project, a small business, a new ritual of prayer.
Starting something is risk. It’s bravery and openness. It’s humility and asking for help. It’s being a learner, an apprentice, a worker. It’s being open to surprise.
Because even if you’re an expert in one area, beginning a new project, a new skill, a new way of looking at the world brings you to your knees. It brings you back to the beginning, back to not being sure, to feeling self-conscious, to opening the door to the big bogeyman, fear, that will keep you up at night.
Perhaps that’s one part of being an expert—learning how to be a beginner again. And again. And again. Learning to take a deep breath and let the fear in. Learning to keep working, even with the fear’s hand on your shoulder. Learning to get down on your knees again before the fear forces you to. Learning to open your hands, one finger at a time.
A true expert knows there’s no shame in being a beginner.
A beginner is humble. A beginner is eager to learn, still starry-eyed with possibility. The beginner has a chance to approach a problem in a new way, to innovate. A beginner’s passion will help her improve quickly. A beginner has no choice but to ask for help.
I have spent years resisting feeling like a beginner. I have berated myself for my ignorance. I have let anxiety and fear short-circuit my plans. I have kept my ideas to myself, stroking them like a rabbit’s foot, a talisman.
Even three weeks ago I was asking a friend to help me with a project, and feeling utterly ashamed, anxious, and afraid of admitting I didn’t know what I was doing. I was terrified that I had so little knowledge.
Yesterday, I shared with a different friend what I’d learned over the past weeks.
And to my astonishment, I realized I’d already come a long way. Past the fear, past the shame. Past the bewilderment.
Past the beginning.
Sure, there are many other elements of the project that still bewilder me, but this one area? I found some…confidence. Some direction. Some sense that I’d passed a trial and succeeded.
Had I not asked for help, looked for specific ways to improve, if I’d kept holding off on action and risk, I’d still be there in the fear. Admitting I was a beginner helped me get the traction I needed to, well, begin.
Be a beginner.
Ask for help.
Be specific and honest about what you need to learn.
Get on your knees, and look up.
The help will come. The knowledge and confidence will follow. Get ready to be astonished.