Random thoughts with a spattering of thoughtfulness.

Archive for November, 2013

Learn to Do Anything, Guaranteed!

Practice–It’s that simple
(and that hard).

I mentioned in my previous post that I’m working to learn more about freelancing and online business in the effort to at least generate a part-time, secondary income working from home. I also mentioned, not for the first time, how much I love to write.

So, last night I applied for work as a transcriber with some online transcription company. The application process consisted of a brief test designed evaluate the applicant’s command of the English language. I thought for sure I blew it clean out of the water. Then, I got the results today and “my number of errors was outside their allowable margin for error.” I *gasp* failed!

After traversing several phases of self-talk (failure, doubt, it’s-not-me-it’s-them, etc.), I set my ego aside and decided I must need more practice. Weekly isn’t enough. I have enough ideas, I need to practice daily.

So, whatever it is you want to learn, and whatever level of skill you currently have, if you want to get better, practice. The more you practice, the more you’ll learn and the better you’ll get.

Daily–Make time to make it a habit.

As an abstract concept I think we all know practice, especially daily practice, is what it takes to learn and improve anything we want to do well.

Personally, however, I’ve never really had the patience. I want to do something well and I’m a perfectionist, so when I can’t master it in whatever length of time my amateur brain imagines is reasonable, I quit.

To me, daily practice has always been an abstract concept of self improvement. I was either good at something or I wasn’t, period.

Until I made a daily habit of something simple and completely unrelated to anything I wanted to do.

I was among thousands of people who regularly lie to their dental hygienists. She’d ask if I was flossing and I’d reply, “Probably not as often as I should.” Translation: never (or, at best, rarely).

Then, she told me that my family history and personal dental hygiene may put me at higher risk of periodontal disease, so I made a commitment to daily flossing.

Having rarely flossed in the past, naturally I wasn’t very good at it. I used a massive amount of floss and it seemed tedious and time consuming. Not to mention, I had to make the conscious decision every day to take the time and struggle through it.

Then one day, without warning, I realized it wasn’t so bad. It didn’t take as much time, I didn’t use as much floss and I was much more effective at it. I also no longer had to remember to floss, it was just something I did.

That simple task took daily practice from an abstract idea to something practical that I could apply to any task at which I wanted to improve.

I also learned something else about daily practice. You improve without noticing you’re improving. Just like our hair grows and our bodies age, you don’t notice the change until the change is significant. You start out not doing so well and you continue thinking you’re not doing so well until one day, you realize you’re actually good. Then you continue at being good for a while until one day, you realize you’re great. So on and so forth.

Patience–With your progress and with yourself.

You’re not going to be very good on the first day and you’re not going to see immediate results. The most important thing is to remember that’s okay.

    If you want to paint, it’s okay if it’s not a masterpiece. Don’t quit.

    If you want to run, it’s okay if you have to rest. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be creative, it’s okay if ideas come slow. Don’t quit.

    If you want to be anything, it’s okay if you fail. Don’t quit.

It won’t happen overnight, in a day, a week, a month or even a year. But if you want to change, if you want to improve, you have to work. You have to keep practicing.

Let go of fear. Let go of comparison. Let go of anyone’s standards other than your own. Learn what you love and do what you love, because you love it. Accept mistakes as part of the process, as part of your process.

I’m sure for a lot of people this is a “Well, DUH!” post. But, I’m also sure there are a lot of people in the world just like me. Who quit before even giving themselves a chance. Who give up because they think they’re not good enough or it’s too hard or they’ll never make it. Frankly, I’m tired of quitting. I’m doing this.

The Tricky Thing About Fear

A Chain of Events

Recently, I’ve started looking for ways I can generate secondary income.

I have a full-time 9-5, but have always wanted to move in the direction of more flexible, freelance options. So, I’ve started looking for ways to generate at least a part-time secondary income through telecommute freelance work. Like a lot of 9-5ers, much of my weekend time is dedicated to maintaining my household, but last week I decided I also wanted to use that time learning how to build an effective online business, so I put in my headphones and scrolled through the list of podcasts in iTunes.

This is how I stumbled upon Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income podcast. I listened to the first six episodes of the Smart Passive Income podcast while cleaning the house and was bombarded with ideas. I’m working through the podcast episodes in order, but I had to jump to episode 87 posted on Nov. 15, 2013. The episode is titled “Why You Belong on Stage – Pat’s ‘Braindump’ of Public Speaking and Presentation Tips” and with my own newfound passion for public speaking, I couldn’t resist.

In episode 87 Flynn dropped this little gem about fear, “When the resistance, when that fear comes into play, for me that’s a sign that whatever it is I’m trying to do is typically worth pushing through…If you are thinking about public speaking, or you know it’s something you should do, but you fear it, take that as a sign that this is something you should do.”

When I heard this in his podcast, it occurred to me that the thing I fear most is probably the thing I should be doing. I also remembered this wasn’t anything new to me. It was something I had learned years ago, but had forgotten.

A Life Lesson

In 2002, I left my family to spend eight weeks detained on a military base in a small New Jersey town for basic training with the United States Coast Guard. I was scared out of my mind when I got on the bus and the closer I got to Cape May, the more my fear escalated into panic. What had I done?! What was I in for?!

Later, when basic training was a mere memory, I was discussing fear and life events with my younger sister and I remember telling her one thing I’ve learned is that, generally, the thing you fear the most will turn out to be the best thing you will ever do.

Despite the near-crippling fear I experienced as a boarded the bus to Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, I can say with complete confidence, that experience and the subsequent four years was easily the best thing I’ve done with my life to date. I didn’t let fear hold me back and the result was life-changing.

So why am I letting fear hold me back now?

A Debilitating Fear

I want to write. I love to write. For a lifetime I’ve been in awe of libraries which house innumerable resources for any topic I can imagine and I’ve dreamt about contributing to that wealth of knowledge. For years I’ve walked into bookstores, purchased random books on random topics of interest and longed to be a name on those shelves screaming for attention amidst thousands of others.

I have a passion for the written word in all forms, but I rarely ever write and I have never really worked toward my dream of being a “writer.” Why? Because when I walk around a bookstore, when I scroll through iBooks, when I look at the blogosphere–the millions of people trying to be heard–I am overwhelmed with doubt and fear. How could I ever stand a chance in such an over-saturated market?

So, other than journaling, I don’t write. Ever. Or, rarely. I started this blog and let it fizzle out. I wrote a couple articles for a local magazine and let that fizzle out. Despite my passion, I let the fear get the best of me and I fizzle out.

A Time to Change

As I was listening to Flynn’s podcast I realized I wasn’t writing, because I was afraid. And, I remembered my own lesson about fear. I decided I have to write. I have to set deadlines, I have to create more content, I have to practice, I have to get better. I can’t NOT do this.

So what if no one reads it, so what if it’s bad at first, so what if no one cares. I’ll get better with time, I’ll get better with practice. The more I write, the more ideas I will have, the more creative I will become.

So, last week I set my first deadline. I decided I would post to this blog on a weekly basis. I decided I would push through it, make myself write more, stick to my deadlines. Even if this never goes anywhere, I will practice, I will learn and I will get better.

Whatever it is you love, just do it. Forget about what other people think, forget about if you’re good at it or not, forget about the what-ifs, forget about the fear. If you’re afraid of failure it’s because you love something enough to care, so go out there and do it.

Fall Like Rain

Fall Like Rain…How?

A Pseudo Summer Rain

In that surreal space on the edge of sleep one night, an image took shape behind my eyelids. The image itself was nothing spectacular, just my neighborhood street under the low-hanging, soggy clouds of a summer afternoon rain storm. For an instant, I watched the rain fall in my mind’s eye.

What was striking about this particular flash of brain activity right before falling asleep wasn’t the image, but the metaphor with which it came.

In a moment of watching an imaginary rain, I saw life. Each raindrop was a single life. Condensed from seemingly nothingness as a result of atmospheric conditions, released on a particular trajectory with no control over the world through which it passes, and smashed into seeming non-existence as it rejoins the earth and those which came before.

The Rain Storm Perspective

The thought that stuck with me immediately after this little spike in brain activity and right before I fell asleep was, “I want to fall like rain.”

We want to believe we have control over every aspect of our lives, but what if we’re just passing through? We all search for purpose, but what if our purpose is just to enjoy the view and be happy?

This idea, of course, isn’t new. Countless people have put a lot of work into this and similar ideas. Many of whose work is well-researched, published and lines countless self-help bookshelves and who are certainly more credible then some girl spouting random thoughts that cross her mind.

It’s interesting, however, of all the material advising people to just be happy the idea is still scoffed at by the majority. And yet, life, or the universe or whatever, continues to blast us with experiences–like my pre-sleep metaphor– encouraging us to do just that.

Even as a believer and follower of this concept, I often get drawn into the day-to-day drama of my culture and society. There are times when and places where I just can’t seem to maintain my inner-peace. And I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m sure other people who try to live by similar ideas experience moments when they’re drawn back in to negative thoughts and the control-illusion.

Why is it so hard for us to just let go? Why are we so consumed by our need for control, or to be the victim, or to be miserable, when it’s just as easy to let it go and be happy?

So, what I’m striving to remember since that night is to simply fall like rain and let life lead.