“If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid.” — Epictetus
Very few people enjoy the feeling of being a beginner.
That awkward, bumbling beginner phase is something most people will do just about anything to avoid. I know this because I avoided being bad at things for most of my life, choosing instead to always play to my strengths.
Growing up, I wouldn’t even try something new unless I was reasonably sure I would be good at it. I followed this same strategy until around my mid-twenties, when I realized that I’d need to start putting myself in challenging and uncomfortable situations or risk remaining the same person for the rest of my life.
I’ve tested my willingness to be a beginner countless times over the years, pushing myself out of my comfort zone by doing things like taking up handstands, writing my first book, traveling, and living around the world. Most recently, I began training in martial arts. After feeling somewhat athletically competent for years, training elements of taekwondo, Judo, karate, and jiu-jitsu instantly transported me back to being a complete beginner.
The other day, my martial arts coach taught me a new skill called a tornado kick, a 360 roundhouse kick that’s considered basic level at best for any taekwondo practitioner.
I didn’t grow up doing martial arts or gymnastics and have no natural ability for either. Now, in my thirties, anything involving twisting feels especially foreign to me.
I was acutely aware of my thought process as I began to work the skill, feeling the epitome of foolish and stupid.