I attended a small-field soccer practice this past week. It was a mixed group. Men. Women. Teenagers up through 50-year-olds.
Now, I’m athletic. And I have a couple of years of indoor soccer under my belt. I understand the game. I make some pretty okay passes. I play really decent defense. And occasionally, when I’m playing up front, I sink a goal.
What I am not good at is possessing the ball. Dribbling a soccer ball under pressure for me is like trying to dance blindfolded in a room full of nervous cats. It’s not pretty.
Anyway, I’m out on the field this last week with all these other players and some of them are just magic on the ball.
I find myself feeling jealous… and wondering how many years and how much practice it took for them to reach that level of comfort, moving a ball with their feet.
And then I had my most important thought of the week: They had to be willing to look stupid to get where they are.
If you want to be really, really good at something, you have to practice. A lot. I don’t care if it’s cooking or training a dog or playing the piano or speaking a new language or learning to write web copy… practice is essential, even if you have a natural, innate talent.
And when you practice, you have to be willing to go for it. If you’re worried about how you look or how the food you’re making tastes or how you sound when you play the piano, you’re going to get stuck doing the easy stuff. The basic stuff. Because that’s the stuff that’s safe. That’s the stuff where you can look like you know what you’re doing, even when you know you have so much more to learn.
To crack into that “so much more to learn” territory, you have to be willing to make mistakes, to look silly, to feel stupid.
And that’s a hard hurdle for a lot of us to get over. Embarrassment is a top contender for the least favorite emotion.
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help put that fear of looking stupid aside.
First, learn to laugh at yourself. If you can keep a good sense of humor, it makes it easier to try things that don’t come easily at first.
Second, enlist the help of someone who won’t laugh at you. We’ve all had that teacher or coach or friend who couldn’t quite figure out why something that came so easily to them isn’t coming quite as easily to us. It’s an uncomfortable feeling. That sense of being judged and found wanting when you’re only just learning. Seek out the teachers who get where you’re at and will help you advance without making you feel like there’s something wrong with you.
Third, practice alone sometimes, but not all the time. If you’re working on mastering a direct-response sales letter, write a few practice versions on your own before writing one that you show to someone to review. And pick someone who will be honest with you, but who knows how to give constructive feedback without making it personal.
If you really want to discover what you look like at your best, then making mistakes in front of an audience eventually is going to be part of the journey. Embrace that now, and you will reach a higher level of success a lot faster than if you don’t.
New on the Site
When it comes to quality writing, what sets a great writer apart from a good one often comes down to some pretty subtle nuances. In his latest post, John Torre talks about some small changes that can improve the impact of your writing dramatically.
In her latest Reality Blog, Candice Lazar gives an update on her goal for the third quarter — to launch a Money-Making Website. Most importantly, she shares some powerful lessons she learned in the process.
If you’re like most writers, you spend hours at your computer every day, and may not give too much thought to the kinds of foods you’re eating to fuel your creativity and productivity. When you’re under a deadline, whatever is quick and easy may seem like the best option. But you may unknowingly be setting up an obstacle between you and producing your best work…
Today’s the Day
If you signed up to participate in our Reality Blog Challenge, don’t forget that today is the deadline for turning in your post for the preliminary round. Even if you haven’t announced your intent to participate, there’s still time to jump in. You can find all the details here.
Around the Web
Time is precious and the content you read should be doing something to help you grow, either personally or professionally. In this post from Copyblogger, you’ll find some excellent tips on getting the most out of the content you consume.
So, I am definitely guilty of the “diving into writing” habit that is the subject of this Problogger post. Inside, you’ll find some good arguments for putting a bit more time into planning your content before you start drafting.
If you write for the travel industry, creating trust is even more important than in most industries. In this article, you’ll find some good tips on increasing travel promotion conversions.
Here, you’ll find some good advice for engaging with your social media audience authentically without spending all day doing it.
That’s all for now. Make it a great week!