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Trying something new

Here's something I posted as a comment in another journal. (The entry was friends-locked.) The person was saying they felt bad about not doing better at something they were starting to learn.
This reminds me of my first few weeks doing the dog-training class at the animal shelter. I wasn't getting the results I wanted, and because most things are easy for me, I jumped to the conclusion that I was "bad at" dog training. But I kept going, reminding myself that I'd started doing the class because I wanted and needed a challenge.

I gradually got better at it, but most of what "better" meant was understanding what each dog was capable of, and neither pushing the dog to the point where it got upset and stressed, nor blaming myself for not being able to change the dog more. Sometimes, not pushing the dog made me get better-than-expected results, but mostly, I just started enjoying the class more and not bothering with blaming or negative judgement.

So my advice is to keep at it, and try to remind yourself of the difference between "bad at" and "a beginner learning a challenging new skill."

I'm posting this because turning off the "you're bad at this" critic when I am trying something new that I'm not "a natural" at is very hard for me. I need to remind myself a lot.


( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 29th, 2003 10:39 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing this. I've been going through being a clueless newbie at my job despite facing three years in the same chair next month due to having to adjust to new methods of doing things. It's not easy to switch "I'm still learning" and "I suck at this" around sometimes.
Aug. 29th, 2003 11:15 am (UTC)
Re: Trying something new
*nod*. oh yeah. i am applying my relationship "baby steps" habits to my artsy-crafty pursuits, which so far seems to be working, but, like you, i need to remind myself a lot.

btw, i think really good dog training tends to train the trainer a heck of a lot more than the dog. :)
Aug. 29th, 2003 01:24 pm (UTC)
Re: Trying something new
Hm. I never thought of thinking of crafts as similar to relationships. Explain?

I'm told good dog training trains the trainer more than the dog, yeah.

In my experience, maybe 2/3 of the dogs don't pay attention to me for about 1/2 of the hour-long class, and then something clicks and they start behaving better. It's kind of like they generalize from what's been happening to "Oh, if I do what she wants, she'll be happy" (or "I'll get a treat" or whatever).

I don't think I'm changing how I treat them 1/2 of the way through, but maybe.
Aug. 29th, 2003 03:11 pm (UTC)
Can you please crosspost this to [Bad username: selfintthemirror]? This hits about 17 buttons for me -- it's a whole new key to various longterm issues.
Aug. 29th, 2003 04:14 pm (UTC)
crossposted to selfinthemirror
Aug. 29th, 2003 05:24 pm (UTC)
Not quite the same, but that made me think of this passage from Philip Toshio Sudo's book Zen Guitar:
Over the long haul, the path of development consists of stages and plateaus. The dedicated beginner will see rapid improvement in the early going, but after a while the rate of improvement will taper off. We can work and work and work and not see any progress. Then suddenly, we move up to a new stage of ability, as though arriving in a meadow clearing out of a jungle.

Be aware that the farther on the path you go, the longer the plateaus get. During these times, you may feel like you're in a rut. The way out is to stay focused on your training -- what you are doing right now. Don't look ahead to where you want to be, and don't look back thinking, "I've only come this far." If you put in an honest effort, you will break through to the next level. You can't make long-term progress conform to your timetable. It has to happen naturally. A flower blooms when it's ready to bloom. Let it be.

When arriving at a new stage, do not think your difficulties will vanish, either. Each level of achievement brings a new set of problems. This should be understood beforehand.

Whatever you do, move only at a pace that is natural. Do not concern yourself with those who seem to pass you by. On the path of Zen Guitar, there is no last train out of town -- no destination, no deadlines. If some folks want to rush by you, let them go. Where they're heading is not the Way.

So long as your spirit keeps going forward, you're moving fast enough.
I used to be a good dog trainer -- one of these days I'll get another dog (there was a reasonable possibility that I was going to do that this last week, but nope, not yet).

Aug. 30th, 2003 12:01 am (UTC)
Nice quote!

It's great you're thinking about getting a dog!
Aug. 29th, 2003 06:06 pm (UTC)
I needed to hear that. Thank you.
Aug. 29th, 2003 10:57 pm (UTC)
Thanks for posting this. I was definitely having an "I suck at this" day at work today, and it helps to be reminded of the difference between learning curves and genuine suckage.
Aug. 30th, 2003 12:22 am (UTC)

You don't suck at it. From my brief glimpses into what you do, I think you're basically doing something impossible. (Or at least rather closer to impossible than a four-digit-number's worth of Augean Stables).
Sep. 5th, 2003 09:42 am (UTC)
I'm posting this because turning off the "you're bad at this" critic when I am trying something new that I'm not "a natural" at is very hard for me. I need to remind myself a lot.

That's an interesting point of view, and I appreciate your having posted it. For me, being good at stuff is how I justify my existence, so I won't try something new -- no matter how interesting it looks -- unless I'm reasonably sure I'll be good at it, and if I'm not good at it immediately, I'll drop it like a hot rock rather than waste everyone's time.
Sep. 5th, 2003 10:41 am (UTC)
Are you happy with that way of being? I was for a long time, but starting a few years ago, I began to feel uncomfortably restricted by it, so I've been struggling to branch out and try some things I'm not good at.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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