Looking like a fool at first leads to mastery at last

Published: 2022-04-08

In James Clear's 3-2-1 Newsletter, he shared a thought that I've been feeling for awhile, but couldn't put to words very well. This happens a lot with James Clear and other great writers. They're able to say what you've been thinking. This is what Clear wrote:

Powerful combination = Hate being bad at stuff + Willing to look like a beginner.

People who hate being bad at stuff are driven to improve. However, if they are unwilling to look like a beginner from time to time, they will avoid new challenges and struggle to reinvent themselves.

Meanwhile, people who are willing to try new things, but lack a thirst to improve will settle for mediocre results.

It's the willingness to look foolish for a short time—but not for a long time—that leads to jumps in performance.

This reminded me of an essay I wrote earlier in the year, "How to Be Great? Be Okay With Being Bad." If you want to get good at something you're currently bad at, you have to be willing to look like a fool for awhile. If you're afraid to do so, you'll never be open to new challenges. And if you're not open to new challenges, you'll never adopt new skills.

As I wrote in the essay, I want to be really good at golf. My goal is to be much, much better than your average weekend player. The only way I can get better is to go out there and try. I've become much better in the last few months, but when I first started I was embarrassed to go to the driving range and shank balls, duff chips, and miss two foot putts. The paradox in this is that the only way I could get better at not shanking balls, duffing chips, and missing those two foot putts is to practice those things. Sure I can take lessons, and I did, but I still had to put in a lot of time outside of the lessons. And most of that time was spent being embarrassed at my performance and the fact that I looked like a beginner.

Don't be afraid to look like a fool for a year in order to look like a master in ten.