Lately I've been thinking a lot about the concepts of building and beginning.
I think it all started while watching my kids participate in their current sporting activities. These days I'm spending four afternoons/evenings a week watching Simon and Anna practice their respective sports - Anna at gymnastics and Simon at Tae Kwon Do (two times a week each).
During the time I'm sitting there observing their practices, a lot of thoughts go through my head. Sometimes it's memories about my own childhood sports experiences (soccer, swimming and golf), or thoughts about my Mom and how she juggled three kids in sports, and other times it's thoughts about Simon or Anna (what's working and not working, how they are doing, what kind of questions I can ask in the car on the way home, etc). I'm really thankful I'm able to have the chance to literally watch them build their athletic skills.
One of the things I'm super interested in right now are the ways in which their coaches break down the skills they are learning into really small tasks. In gymnastics especially I can see how these simple, small actions will combine together into one big exercise or routine down the road. The coach sets up what basically amounts to an obstacle course and the girls move from one skill to another - one stop will be a handstand, one stop will be a finish pose, one stop will be jumping, etc. I don't even know all the technical names for everything but it's super clear that it's a thought out path towards more advanced skills.
That focus on one small thing at a time - building to mastery by starting with the basics - isn't foreign to me but I love seeing it play out right in front of my eyes.
Learning a new skill or sport or art form or way of being takes time and repetition.
It takes doing the same move over and over and over again. That move may involve a paintbrush or a pen or standing on your hands or lacing up your shoes or yelling kiai or sitting at a wheel or looking through the lens over and over and over again.
And it takes a willingness to be bad at it in the beginning.
We all have to start somewhere.
Lately I've needed to remember that for myself. We don't begin at the end - we begin right where we are with what we have right in front of us at any given point in time.
At what point in our lives do we forget that it takes work to learn a new skill? Or maybe the more appropriate question is, at what point do we stop being interested in putting out the effort to be a beginner again? Do you have the expectation either that everything should be super simple and you should be an immediate expert OR that it's simply not worth it because there is too much effort involved?
Tae Kwon Do is not easy for Simon. In fact, it's really hard for him in many ways (physically and mentally) and he gets frustrated often. Frustrated for Simon often looks like turning his back on his instructors or classmates, laying on the floor in the middle of the class, or loud whining noises. A little out of character for most 13-year-olds and a little distracting for the participants and instructors but the reality for Simon.
Last week I noticed that his level of frustration has decreased a bit over the last couple of times he's been there. Around here we celebrate "a bit."
I think there's a couple reasons for the decreased frustration:
- (1) he's developing a positive relationship with one of the instructors who is also learning how to work with Simon (when to push and when to pull and when to joke and when to hold a firm line)
- (2) he's becoming familiar with the moves and the general routine of the practice
- (3) he's maturing in his ability to move through his frustrations vs. letting them paralyze him
One of the most awesome things I saw last week was a stronger willingness to learn/improve. I asked two of the boys who were in his class (one of them happened to be Aaron's son Isaac) if they could help Simon see and feel the correct body form for a push-up. Simon's willingness to be taught by his peers vs. being embarrassed that he wasn't doing it correct was really a sign of progress in his own social development.
Keep building those skills Simon.
There's so much beauty in the building.
Last week I spent Friday morning with my friend Kim at a local ceramics studio called Clay Space. It was her birthday and she sent me a text asking if I wanted to join her in the activity of her choice. One of the things I'm working on this year is cultivating friendships and expanding my worldview - giving myself permission to not be so obsessed about the things I'm already obsessed about or feel like I have to be an expert at everything before diving in.
Basically I'm challenging myself to be a beginner as often as possible.
So I told her I'd meet her there. I've never sat at a wheel before. I had zero expectations and didn't at all feel like I had to come home with a completed anything. I simply wanted to go for the experience - to chat with my friend, to check out the steps involved, to get my hands messy, and to get away from the computer.
Of course it was great and of course I had no idea what I was doing and really just made a mess and played. And it was perfect. Being in a studio environment like that was a breath of fresh air. I have nothing physically to show for my time there, but at this point in time that matters very little to me. It was an experience. I am a beginner.
As I sat at the table rolling the clay and then at the wheel forming bowls and then breaking them down through experimentation, I thought about this post (that I had started before this adventure last week) and about the basics of skill building and mastery and being a beginner. I look forward to taking a class or watching some you tube videos and building some skills, one task at a time.
When was the last time you were a beginner? What are you building? What holds you back?