By Tom Wozniak, Head of Marketing – published on Forbes on 9/1/21
When we were kids, we were all beginners at almost everything, from reading and writing to playing various sports and from playing musical instruments to playing games. Trying new things and therefore constantly experiencing being a beginner was something we did on a regular basis. But, as people get older, they tend to stop taking on so many new activities. We are typically rewarded in school and at work for focusing on becoming competent or extremely good at particular skills. So, we tend to focus more on getting even better at things we have already shown an aptitude for. While it’s great to become experts, are we missing out on something important when we stop being beginners so often?
Since I’m writing an article about the benefits of being a beginner, you can probably guess how I’ll answer that question. At the same time, I am no different than most people who enjoy being skilled at a number of specific activities. I think we have a natural inclination to want to focus on learning about topics that build on what we already know. In fact, that’s a large part of how people progress in their careers.
I was reminded recently of the fun of being a beginner after taking up a new hobby: one that was fairly outside my normal wheelhouse. On day one, it became very apparent that I was objectively not good at it. I didn’t even know what I didn’t know or what questions to ask. But I jumped in with both feet and started learning and practicing. I took lessons, bought equipment, read articles, practiced, took more lessons and so on. And I began to improve. In the classes, I was often surrounded by people who were better and more experienced. However, instead of feeling inferior, I felt energized.
What are some of the benefits of embracing being a beginner in our careers?
Growing Outside Your Comfort Zone
As we become grown-ups, many of us really do naturally start to try fewer new things. That’s not to say we never do anything new, and some people are better at expanding their horizons than others. But most of us tend to start developing a comfort zone, and it becomes very easy to stay within it most of the time. But it’s hard to grow very much when you stick with what is already comfortable. To get better at anything, you have to push your boundaries. Athletes get faster, stronger or better at a skill not just by practicing it every day, but also by forcing themselves to work harder, lift more weight, do more reps, take seconds off of their best times and so on. None of that is comfortable, and it can lead to something people really dislike — failure. You probably couldn’t lift that heavier weight the first time you tried, or you could only manage one rep. But, by pushing beyond your limits just a bit each time, you can grow. Trying new things will immediately force you outside your comfort zone. You really have no choice but to grow if you stick with it. Those new skills may enhance your career or personal life or just make you a more interesting person.
Read the rest at Forbes.
Tom Wozniak heads up Marketing and Communications for OPTIZMO Technologies.