Everything you did today you could already do. Did you learn something new? That’s great. Do it again. Did you sit there and hear about it from your professor/NPR/best friend? Go listen to them more, they have things to offer you. Very few, if any of these things, though, are a skill. Of those that are skills, could I have dropped you straight in and had you just figure it out in under five minutes? If so, you probably didn’t learn a new skill. What you did, right there, was rearrange bits and pieces from skills you already had. You didn’t get a new tool in your utility belt, you just figured out how to solve the problem with the batarangs you already had there. To be clear, there that is not a bad thing. Being able to use what you already have will solve most problems that you will come across. This, though, rarely serves as an actual challenge.
Let’s take a trip back through history. Way back through history. At one point there were a bunch of humans and a bunch of neanderthals. Now, there were a few things that made them different, the shape of their pelvis, how they moved around, etc. These aren’t the things that made the real difference though. The big thing was that neanderthals had one set of tools. These were tools that could be made anywhere and suited most of their needs. Humans, on the other hand, had lots of tools. Whenever humans went somewhere new, they made new tools for the challenges that arose.
For those of you who don’t know your history I want you to take a guess at what happened next. For those that do know your history, good job, you get a pat on the head. Okay, big surprise! All the neanderthals died and the humans kept on keeping on. Do you know why? It’s because the humans forced them selves to overcome challenges in ways they had never previously. This, this right here is what I am talking about. Do this, right now, except without a hand axe. Also shower first.
What I want you to do is find something that you have never done before and that you cannot currently do. Example. A few weeks ago I learned how to walk a tight wire. It’s pretty simple in theory, point your feet forward, keep your shoulders and hips from moving, compensate with your arms. I can tell you this and give you a tight wire and you will fail miserably. Sure, you might get one or two steps across without losing balance. Good for you, you get another pat on the head. Do you know how many people get hired to walk three steps across a tight wire? Zero.
Now, you don’t have to walk a tight wire in particular, although it’s really cool and if you ever get the chance it’s definitely worth it. Find something that you can in no way do right now, then go and try it until it works. Don’t make this something that requires other people to take any particular course of action. I don’t mean here that you can’t go and sign up for tap dance classes after never having danced, you should definitely go and do that, tap dancing is cool. What I’m talking about is don’t make this “get my first girlfriend” or “make my first sale”. This needs to be something that you will be able to do after long, arduous hours of practice.
One of the reasons I want you to do this is to feel scared as well as for you to fail at something, repeatedly. When I first went around in a German wheel, I was scared that my hand would be crushed by a giant spinning steel contraption. It took me a while to build up the courage to finally go all the way around, and I was scared the entire way. Then I did it some more and was still scared that I would leave with less limbs than I had come in with.
Rarely are we ever truly scared. We all have our routines and our plans. Occasionally there’s a hiccup, but we eventually deal with it like we did the last twenty times. What I want you to do is find something that you will fail at for the first several times, something that scares you, and do it. I’m not saying you have to conquer your one greatest fear. It doesn’t even have to be something you knew was scary.
Now go out and fail at something new. Fail until you can’t fail anymore. Ideally this will be something that will take hours of tiring effort. You’ll walk away feeling ore fulfilled than when you started, trust me.