The Best Way To Learn: Embrace How Little You Actually Know
This took me decades to learn.
We want to be good at everything we're interested in trying, from the very start of the journey. But most of the time, the only way to get consistently good at something is to stop trying to be good right away. Let yourself know nothing. Open yourself up to just how little you know. Don't paint everything with the small assumptions you've picked up along the way. Just jump in and try. Especially if you're trying to learn a skill that is learned by doing more than researching. Start by doing, and bring the research in once you've found a groove with the task itself.
This approach is tricky. It takes bravery. It takes a readiness and acceptance of whatever highly imperfect results might emerge. It's a lesson I learned in my first acting class in LA:
Stop showing your work and just do the work
Basically, the faster you embrace your initial sucking (as opposed to pretending like you're better than you are), the faster you'll move from novice to more advanced (and onward to competent, proficient, maybe even expert). It pulls from the Dreyfuss Model of Skill Aquisition. And no, it's not a 'get skilled quick' scheme, or a way to instantly absorb material. It's often uncomfortable, and it works.
How has it applied to my life?
I have been attempting to become a competent singer for over 10 years, yet I've grown the most in just the past year or two, because I stopped caring about how I sounded when I was learning something new. I dared to suck, so I learned a hell of a lot faster. When I first moved to NY, I used to cry at every vocal coaching--too afraid I might sound bad. This rendered it impossible to gauge my true ability and therefore properly improve upon it. I was so in my head, it was a nightmare to coach me. I refused to do my part to cultivate a safe space where I could repeatedly try and fail. How else can you get better if you don't let yourself fail? It doesn't always seem this way when we listen to professional singers/musicians, but we all need a (usually long) phase of sounding bad, in order to start consistently sounding good. I made it harder than it needed to be, so it took longer to figure out what I was doing. I'm not upset about it--I needed to learn at my own pace and I'll keep improving consistently now that I understand my learning process. I had to let go of a lot of the self-judgment that held me back, and that took as long as it took.
I really thought I could break into the acting scene, completely green, and just instantly know how to stay focused, be a good listener, and consistently perform well. I'd read some books, done some musicals, and dabbled in acting from a young age. But I basically knew sh*t all...
about consistently training my acting technique, about being on set, about the limitless array of approaches an actor can take, about the business/marketing side of acting. Any of it. And once I surrendered to knowing basically zero and just saying yes to acting/training opportunities, things started to click in a little at a time. They still aren't consistent, but I try to make up for my inexperience with a lot of hard work and observant listening to my surroundings. I try to spend time with actors and filmmakers. I try to watch movies and TV with a keener eye. I get up and film myself acting, even though I'm scared and hyper critical. I've really only reached the first rung on a very tall ladder when it comes to the craft and business of acting, but I'm proud of that rung, and I'm excited to keep going.
Being A Kind Person
I think I'm naturally pretty empathetic, but learning to be kind to myself, the people around me, and the environment, has been a nonstop learning experience that has no end in sight. I don't think anyone knows everything there is to know about being kind. I think we're all dealing with a lot and are not always emotionally equipped to hold down the kindness level of a classroom, or a Facebook message thread, or a workspace. Being kind means being open to all kinds of new, often uncomfortable situations. It means allowing a lot of difficult people/events to exist, with more faith and curiosity than judgment. Every day I look for opportunities to be kind, and I find the smallest things (patience in a long line-up, complimenting a stranger) to often be just as satisfying as the 'big stuff' (volunteering, championing someone underprivileged, orchestrating some grand gesture). Most importantly, I've learned to stop judging myself for moments of weakness or missed chances at kindness. Nobody's perfect. Why would I work to allow everyone else to make mistakes and not myself? The only direction we can go is forward.
Pretty much everything:
Cooking, leading a healthy lifestyle, every dance genre I've ever tried (many of which I am still a total novice at), self-care, technology, writing (I had such a long phase of thinking I was a hot sh*t writer when I could have used a great deal more of humble every-day practice), traveling, social media/marketing, bartending, drawing, driving, budgeting, relationships, makeup, meditation, improvising, auditioning, socializing, being funny, finding my own style, communicating, and being patient...to name a few.
Anything you wanna dare to suck at today, this month, or this year? Feel free to comment. And have fun embracing that phase of blissfully knowing nothing. The sooner you embrace it, the faster you'll improve. :)
*Me knowing various degrees of nothing and embracing it.