“I’m always tryin’ to do something new, tryin’ to look like a beginner.” - Meshell Ndegeocello
It seems like the world today is full of people who know what they’re doing. (Or at least that’s the way it feels to me, as I stumble into work—hair undone, makeup unevenly applied to both eyes, wearing the least-flattering sweater possible. I often feel like I’m a child who’s woken up late for school and got on the wrong bus.)
Or if they don’t know what they’re doing, they’re a lot better at faking it than I am.
My life is filled with people like this. Some who go on trendy diets, become self-certified experts, and champion their new way of life to anyone listening. Friends selling diets/nail wraps/etc. in a quasi-Ponzi scheme suddenly become business masters. Someone who fell asleep halfway through their Economics class in high school lecturing their friends on who's right in the current Presidential election. I'm not judging them, just observing.
I understand the appeal of making yourself appear knowledgeable. We all want to be taken seriously. And, I’ll be generous and say that maybe some of the types I’ve mentioned actually do what know what they’re talking about. But that doesn’t matter—it’s not the point of this self-indulgent ditty.
No, friends, I’m here to advocate dropping the veil of mastery and embracing being a beginner. There’s a forgotten merit in admitting that you have more to learn. Beginners approach the world with open and hungry eyes, observing things around them and digesting what’s useful. I believe that lowering your blinders not only makes you better at whatever it is you’re trying to learn (music, nutrition, or the art of a sarcastic Facebook post) but also a better person. Those who approach both the world and each other with open eyes and minds will have more understanding of differing experiences and beliefs.
I’m certainly not the master at hypothetical, life-oriented posts such as this. Hell, I don’t even claim to be a master writer. But one thing I will admit to is constantly trying. I will never stop learning about writing, reading the works of other writers, and keeping my notebook handy to scribble notes, as if I’m back in college once again. I'll never stop learning.
Allow yourself to be a beginner at something, even if it’s something you’ve been doing a long time. Approach it with a new perspective, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll learn something new. But more importantly, look at your fellow humans with the same set of fresh eyes. Take a look at those who drive you crazy—why is it? Is there something you can learn from them? Take an even longer look at those you love—what is so appealing about them? What can you learn from them?
I'll say it again: Never stop learning. Don’t be afraid to try new things and fail. In order to be successful, you must fail. The day we stop learning and trying to be better people is the day our lives end.
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Writer, editor, and storyteller living in the Twin Cities.