01 Jul 2018, 17:03

Starting Over

I’m convinced that the most important skill in life is the ability to start a new skill, hobby, or effort from nothing.

Imagine you’re a native English speaker who wants to learn Amharric. You’re probably unable to verbally communicate with the language. It’s a different alphabet, so writing won’t help. You very well may be the least talented person in this skill in the room. Some may judge you based on your lack of ability instead of a positive bias as an expert in another field. No amount of reasoning, inference, or other parallel skills can help - you just have to sit down and learn. From scratch.

Of course, even experts are constantly being challenged in a somewhat similar if not so extreme manner. This is especially true in fields like technology, where new techs are always outpacing personal growth. But it isn’t limited to tech: business leaders are always, to some extent, growing and adjusting to competitors or other externalities, like loss of funding.

This can be especially tough if your ego doesn’t quite allow it.

Are there any secrets to make it easier? Don’t go too long without a from-scratch effort. The first fall from your level of expertise will be really tough on your ego, but doing it with some frequency will make it seem less painful and more normal. It also helps you appreciate what you do have, and how far you’ve come in your other skill sets.

Of course, this isn’t a prescription for the rest of your life. Without dedicated effort to mastery, you’ll always be sojourning between hobbies, fields, or technologies. But it’s important to keep a balance: don’t allow yourself to be unwilling to try new efforts or explore new ideas, even while striving for mastery in your chosen field.

And remember, you don’t have to attain mastery in this new field. In fact, it might be counterproductive, in terms of efficient use of time, to do so. But do make a habit of challenging yourself, trying things you have no idea how to do.