Personal development

How I learned to stop worrying and love to fail

There are a few things that stop me from doing the things I want to do. Lack of inspiration is one, or being too busy doing other stuff. Laziness, sometimes. Or feeling that, since I’m not good “enough” anyway, why even try?

This last one used to be my pet excuse for not trying some new things. There’s something so comfortable about not challenging yourself to try something new and failing at it, hard. But lately, this has changed. I know, shocker. I am a growing human being after all.

One of the main reasons that I feel differently about this, is because I have added two new hobbies to my repertoire: bouldering and drawing. And boy, do I suck at them. I mean, I’m really not good, at all. But I keep doing them, just for the fun of it. I am allowing myself to suck. And this, dear people, is a realisation of revolutionary proportions.

Allow me to elaborate. I’m sure that there are more people like me who hate to be confronted with how much they suck at a given thing. To know that you’re really trying hard to nail something and then falling flat on your face definitely sucks (pun intended). It’s no bueno to feel like you’re not good at something. So it is no wonder that a natural reaction to this is to say: “Fuck it, this isn’t for me”, and move on to a sun-drenched elsewhere.

In the past, I have not always allowed myself a process of gradually learning something. I was of the opinion that if I wasn’t naturally good or talented at something from the onset, then it wasn’t worth investing my time in. So over the years, I’ve only kept up with the things I was somehow good at, and slowly dropped everything else. Drawing was something I did a lot of when I was younger, but because I didn’t think I had any special talent for it, I stopped. I played the guitar for over seven years, but after having a blackout one time on stage I vowed to never play guitar publicly again. And I was never good at sports, so why bother doing any of that? It was an easy life, in many ways.

That this is not necessarily a healthy or “normal” attitude to life first dawned on me a few years ago. My partner at the time was trying to learn video editing and kept talking about a “steep learning curve”. And I swear, it was almost as if I had never heard of the term before. While he was diligently mastering a new skill, I was trying to wrap my head around the whole concept of a “learning curve”. I kept thinking: “What is this thing you speak of?”. I just didn’t get it.

Because where I come from, either you’re good at something or you’re not. You either exploit the thing that goes easy on you, or you avoid it altogether. That was my philosophy in life. Yes, it was that black and white.

But it turns out life doesn’t work like that. Again, shocker. I told you I’m learning things. Because maybe the things you’re naturally good at don’t truly make you happy. Or you really want to accomplish something and you encounter many, many setbacks along the way. In those cases you don’t give up because things don’t go your way. You just keep going.

Yet despite my initial theoretical introduction to the mysterious concept of a learning curve, I didn’t fully grasp it until recently. I know, the irony doesn’t escape me. Maybe I refused to acknowledge that learning takes time because I’m stubborn as hell and I’m a slow learner. And I’ve always wanted things to be perfect from the get-go.

I’m saying goodbye to many of these old beliefs now, if only because in choosing a different path for myself, I find my demons every step of the way. And with the decisions that I’ve made this year, I really feel that there is no turning back for me. Either I face my bullshit, or stay back in my comfort zone, where nothing ever happens.

So, I’m trying new things and allowing myself to fail. More specifically, I am allowing myself the process of learning and growing. I’ve been going out climbing weekly, and have fallen down on several occasions. And I keep drawing, even though I fail at every drawing exercise I do.

But none of that matters. Because all in all, I’m still learning something new every time – even if it means not being a dumbass and trying a difficult boulder route without properly warming up first. Sure, a part of me is still frustrated when things don’t move as fast as I would like them to. But I don’t let this discourage me from showing up anyway, because I also know that practice makes perfectgood enough, and that most of all, the fun I’m having in allowing myself the space to just be can’t be measured in progress.

You know, there are crash pads and erasers and many ways to help ease the pain of doing something stupid. Most of all, you just have to allow yourself the joy of doing something for the first time, so that maybe, if you’re lucky, you can later look back and marvel at all the growing you’ve been doing.