What You Don’t Know About Being Right is Wrong
I was talking with my martial arts instructor one day (who happens to be the highest ranked practitioner in the region) when he threw this at me: “If you ever feel like you got a technique, you don’t have it.”
I challenged; “You never feel like you ever have it?” back to my sensei, who makes the difficult look deceivingly silly and always surprises me with how effortlessly he does it. What he said next floored me.
“When I do, I get worried, because then I know I’m probably missing out on where my mistakes are and where I can get better. It’s when I’m not getting it then I know I’m learning something new from the experience, and not repeating what I already know.”
Itâ€™s not about hitting a golf ball 100 times, itâ€™s about hitting each time at the edge of your abilities.
I love those moments in my martial arts classes when I pull a beautiful technique out of nowhere and I just kick ass. But no matter how good I feel after, I know that night I was only refining the edges of what I knew (which is always valuable), but not expanding those edges.
It’s those classes when I suck, when I’m totally confused with every technique and nothing seems to go right, that I know I’m pushing at the edges of my abilities and crossing the threshold between what I already know and what I don’t. And no matter how lousy I feel at the end of practice, I know I’ve added new learnings to my experience.
How to Become an Expert by Losing Your Expertise
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.
It’s the humble qualities of
1) being open and teachable,
2) being willing to go back to square one,
3) and giving yourself space to look and feel foolish while learning a new skill,
that allows you to go further than someone who’s
1) closed up and only wants to teach but not be taught,
2) is unwilling to give up his preconceived notions to accept new, possibly shattering but more empowering beliefs,
3) and not willing to not look like an expert.
While thinking better is often the result of experience, experience is often the result of bad judgement. So the next time you’re learning something and for some reason you just seem to suck, stop, take a deep breath, and stop feeling bad about looking bad as you realize this too is another step in your journey towards mastery.