A good way to get good at stuff

Photo by Japheth Mast on Unsplash

First, a disclaimer… We, as a culture, need to chill a bit when it comes to ‘getting better’ (yes, that’s why I baited you with that headline, because maybe you’re someone who’s a biiiit — shall I say — driven to succeed).

A lot of us in our culture today are severely unhappy due to the constant thriving and striving to improve.

We need to knock that shit off. Seriously. We’re here. We’re alive. We’re breathing. We have life and light flowing through our veins. It’s all a gift.

I believe more focus should be placed on celebration and connection with life rather than improvement born from an ego ideal that won’t make us much happier anyways.

Okay, there’s my disclaimer.

Now, we’re human. I get it. We like to get good at stuff. Yes, there are a lot of ways to get good at things (practice comes to mind), but as I write this, I can’t think of many in my experience that’s been more powerful (yet subtle) than this:

To get good at something, stay in the conversation around it.

Now, what I’m talking about here are things that are more creative/intellectual in nature rather than physical/athletic. Although you future Olympians may find some nuggets of truth here as well.

I’ll take writing as an example. Yes, I’ve done (and still do) the work… Years ago, I’d trade in hours of sleep every night for hand-copying old long-form sales letters. I bought every book I could about the craft. I’d read blogs I loved for hours (this was back in the days of Google Reader when you could just keep scrolling through the archives of blogs like a long book).

But all the while, I stayed in the conversation. I stayed curious. I talked to people both inside and outside of the writing world about it. I’d talk to myself about it all day long. I’d contact my favorite writers and try to pick their brains (there are a lot of unanswered emails out in Gmail land somewhere). I had serious doubts about the way things were being done. But I knew that if I stayed present in that world and did my work, I’d grow and learn and evolve. And I did.

It’s happening right now with my spiritual studies. I’m going to school to become an interfaith minister and we’re currently studying New Thought pretty heavily (I won’t go into what that is here — you’re a Google search away from the answer). For some time now, I’ve been running into some doubts and inner challenges around it.

But I’ve stayed in the conversation. I’ve hung out at my spiritual center, taken classes, accepted mentoring, talked to people, challenged people, and asked questions knowing that this is a long-term game. It’s why it’s supposed to take us years of study and apprenticeship to be able to do this work.

All the knowledge and insight in this realm — or any realm, in fact — doesn’t come from watching a few videos, reading a few books, and taking a few courses. Yes, they’re stops along the way. I don’t mean to discount them. But none of them are the finish line.

It takes staying in the conversation for the duration. It takes patience with yourself. It takes staying in through the dip to see what’s on the other side.

We need to let go of the notion that ultimate knowing and uncertainty will ever come. Getting ‘good’ at something takes patience and tenacity. It takes being humble while having an insatiable curiosity. It takes knowing when you’re ‘doing it wrong’ so you can change it up. And it takes knowing that the possibilities of improvement are endless.

So what’s the rush?

Stay in the conversation and you won’t be able to help but grow.