Beginner's Level

Are You at the Beginner’s Level?

“It is better to say, ‘This one thing I do’ than to say, ‘These forty things I dabble in.’” Washington Gladden

I dabble. My canvas of life is created as paint drips from the brush.

I am easily excited by great adventures, by the opportunity to try something new, and the possibility of something more.

I have a recurring to do list filled with my dreams and aspirations. I check my list and yet I have nothing to cross off (granted some are long-term goals). Sure, there have been changes. There have been talks and reflections. But, actual achievements—no.

So, I examined my sporadic life. This app, Todoist emails you everyday to ask you what you accomplish.

In the past nine days…

New Experiences:

I have taken five new classes.

I have traveled to a new country.

I have had a meal with complete strangers.

I biked a city I have never been to before.

I have eaten at seven restaurants I have never been to before.

I have tried one new food (Elk).

I have tried 11 new drinks.

I have worn three new pairs of shoes.

I have talked to 14 new people.

I have started one new project.

I have discovered new websites and news sources on Pocket and Pinterest (surprisingly, Pinterest has great resources for social media and marketing).

Routines:

I still texted the same friends.

I talked to the same people.

I listened to the same song on repeat. Currently, White Iverson (bonus for being about basketball).

I read the same blogs and newsletters: PRtini, theSkimm, and Recruiter’s Couch.

I listen to the same podcasts: Slate’s Political Gabfest and The Bean Cast.

I went to 7 restaurants I had previously been to, BUT I ordered new dishes at 3 of them.

Analysis:

I never know who I will meet, what I will eat, what I will wear or what time I will go to bed. I could have that life where I wake up, go to work, go to the gym, go home and watch Netflix, make one of the 5 things I know how to make, and then read and go to bed without talking to a single person. I could have that routine. I could read a lot of books, become really fit. Grocery shopping would be a lot easier.

But, it’s while planning a trip to Toronto, that I learn there is a whole map of Drake references. It’s by going to an art museum that I learn how memory fades. It’s by walking into a new book store that I see Chelsea Clinton’s book for the first time. It’s by smiling at the person next to me at the cross walk that I help that woman carry her groceries to the nearest bus. It’s by offering to take a photo for a couple, that I realize I am recording a marriage proposal.

The Beginner’s Level:

I gravitate and thrive in the spontaneous life. It’s how I discover. But, while I am exposed to a lot of new things—improv, excel, marriage proposals, natural wonders, and new cuisine—I am simply exposed. I can’t do improv. I am not getting married. I don’t know how to make the new cuisine.

What makes me great is that I will go to that new place, and try that new thing, and I will say “hello” first.

At the same time, while I have great stories, while I can say, “I have done that,” I am missing out on becoming great and doing the things that will help me grow.

I am at the beginners level in a lot of ways.

You cannot become good at something, unless you do it over and over again. The only thing that I do over and over again is trying new things. I keep attending random events. I keep saying “yes” to the drink. To the trip. I am less and less defined by my work or who I talk to because all of that is constantly changing.

Finding Your Inspiration:

But, I have also learned a lot. I am better at navigating a city (kind of). I am better at starting conversation. By learning about other people’s projects and by traveling on my own, I have refound motivation to keep talking, to keep going, and to keep meeting.

Finding inspiration is important. Geben Communication recently wrote about working away from the office to find inspiration. One of the employees went all the way to Chicago. The employee, Nathan Okuley, noted that he was more productive during his time away from the office.

Inspiration and learning can happen in the discovery phase as you change your office scenery, when you turn off your phone, take a different route, and start a conversation with someone new. But true growth occurs when I take that motivation and when I learn about new things and research them and try to solve solutions or create meaning from them. It can’t stop at inspiration.

There has to be a mix of seeing and hearing what other people are doing and then actually doing your own thing and finding things that motivate and inspire you to do and to achieve.

Going back to my nine days of examination, out of the 14 new people I have met, I probably won’t develop relationships with any of them. Out of the 11 new drinks that I tried, I am most likely to buy one of them again (a lot of them are not widely available). Out of the five new reading sources I discovered, I am likely to go back to my pattern of reading PRtini.

It’s one thing to hear about a better way of doing things. It’s a lot harder to do the research and development and truly learn and master to make actual improvements in your life.

True growth occurs in doing those mundane things. Over and over and over again. It is in pushing ourselves to do five more minutes. To practice the new Excel techniques we learned in class. To regularly attend, to finish the book, to be present and active in the moment. To practice over and over again.

And to do that, you need focus. You need to prescribe to the repetitive life of devotion and see the skills that you cultivate.

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