“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that things are difficult”. Seneca
There is something to be said for jumping head first into any new exploit. We are all too often reluctant to try new things. Cowards! It is a common observation made by older people that they regret the things they did not do more than they regret the things, even the mistakes, they did do. The reason is that many of us have a fear of the unknown. We get too comfortable in our daily routines, hobbies and habits. The opportunity to grow as a person passes us by…as a result we never get the chance to expand our knowledge through new experiences.
I find traveling to new lands gives me new perspectives and greater understanding of the human condition. I often wonder why it’s so hard for many people to leave their town? They are missing out on so much! Of course I realize that a reluctance to travel is sometimes based upon a person’s means but more often than not, their hesitation is based on a fear of plane travel, or related worries, like family issues, business concerns or a perceived language barrier they think they’ll experience in foreign countries. In other words, they focus on the reasons not to do something… versus all the wonderful experiences that arise when they get out of town. This reluctance to travel provides an excellent analogy for many other activities.
Sticking to the same things, every day, sounds like a road to a boring life! Stagnation. Not daring to do something new is rooted in the safety familiarity offers-people are just plain scared to leave their comfort zone. The related reason for an avoidance of new endeavours is a fear of failure. No one wants to fail or be embarrassed. My advice is, “get over it”. Losers are the ones that don’t have the courage to try new things.
The rewards for leaping into new endeavours almost always out-weighs the negative outcomes. The simple joy you experience in completing a new task or mastering a new subject is usually tremendous, in and of itself. Plus, you will gain confidence as you move along to other frontiers in life. You will grow and become a more interesting person, a more valuable family member or an important resource in your company – these are just some of the possible “upsides”. As for failing – let failure flow off you like water off a ducks back. Believe it or not, most people won’t even notice or if they do, they’ll often applaud your attempt. The answer lies in trying again or moving onto another difficult project. Never give up! As the brilliant inventor Thomas Edison once said “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”.
Even the brave souls that are game to try a new activity tend to give up too soon. They simply dabble for a while and put it aside with little sustained effort. No wonder they get disheartened. In this book “Outliers” Malcolm Gladwell examined the main factors that contribute to success. He found that the one overwhelming key was practice. In fact, Gladwell concluded that on average it required about 10,000 hours of practicing something before it can be truly mastered. From sport heroes, to ground breaking intellectuals and rock bands like the Beatles, there was always a foundation that consisted in hard, sustained work. Major success, as they say, does not happen overnight! My advice therefore is to always “stick to it”. It’s important to get past that critical point where you are tempted to stop trying. “He who wants to move mountains begins by removing little stones” according to the ancient Eastern saying. Dare to persist to conquer a task…win or lose, it’s worth it!
One thing to remember on your path to conquering something new: don’t be put off by the sense of unfamiliarity. This is normal. When I taught golf many moons ago I found only the students who stuck with the changes I suggested actually improved. All too often people would forget, or abandon, my lessons when they went onto the golf course. Why? It was because as they changed their normal swing they actually got worse for the first while…their old habits kept competing with the new and improved technique. This is only a temporary stage but one laden with frustration. Kids were quick learners and soon improved because their swing was not as ingrained. As for the adults, many gave up and as a result their level of skill never changed. The old cliché that “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” is pregnant with a lot of truth.
“Any time you try something new it’s going to feel weird” said Robin Sharma in his book “A Leader Who had No Title”. This is a critical realization. As you embark on a new path it will not only take you out of your comfort zone but it actually makes you feel strange… even insecure. Everyone experiences this feeling… knowing this should embolden you to keep going. The great actor Al Pacino noted, “There is something to be said for keeping at a thing. For being aware.” I think the “awareness” he’s speaking of relates to the observation you’re in new territory. Keeping your senses about you, and staying calm, allows you to keep on going!
I met a lot of great players while playing professional golf on the Canadian and Australian PGA tours in the 1970’s. I listened intently, and carefully watched some of these legends of the game. However, the best advice I ever received came from my friend Moe Norman. He once told me that you must learn to play with “an alert attitude of indifference”. In other words, accept your shot as soon as you hit it, good or bad, watch it land and immediately begin thinking about your next shot…like water off a ducks back…move on! Moe, considered the purist striker of a golf ball in history (only Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino matched his skill as a shot maker) was an uneducated man who loved pithy one-liners. He often said in his high-pitched voice that the average golfer played with a mixture of “hope and fear”. So true! Many of his statements were quite profound. I doubt Moe ever read Meister Eckhart who once said “He who would be serene and pure needs but one thing, detachment”. The Buddha couldn’t have said it any better!