After my Epic Foot Fracture of 2014, I wasn’t allowed to move for basically six weeks.
The minute I got the “OK” from the doctor to start walking and gently exercising again, I was stoked. Exercise is major stress reliever for me, and I also get my best writing ideas while working out (hello, steamy screenplay scenes!)
I felt pretty weak and floppy after spending six weeks mostly-horizontal, so I hired a trainer to help me get back into my groove.
During my first session with the trainer, I had to fill out a packet of paperwork.
One question read:
What Level Are You? Beginner. Intermediate. Advanced.
I was flip-flopping between “Intermediate” and “Advanced,” so I asked my trainer what he thought and he answered: “You’re a beginner.”
Ummm … excuse me?! What about all those spinning classes I’ve taken all year? And my daily runs? (OK … slow jogs?) And all those times I … like, thought seriously about doing yoga? I’m no beginner!
“You haven’t done any of that for weeks, so we need to look at your baseline. Beginner.”
I stood there open-mouthed, and reluctantly checked the “Beginner” box.
And then … our workout began.
I was even weaker + floppier than I’d feared … and basically had to let him contort my body into different exercises because by the end, I was too exhausted to move my limbs on my own. It was kinda like Sleep Gym, except that unfortunately I had to remain conscious the entire time (where was my coma injection?!)
Lying there, panting, I realized something:
Um, I AM a beginner. And that is OK.
After returning home, post-mortification, I actually felt … better. And not because of my post-workout endorphin buzz, but because I felt courageous and refreshed.
In a world where we are constantly applauded for being The Best At Everything, it felt good — great, even — to let loose, be free, and just be a beginner, again.
If you want to get something started — a blog, a book, a big creative project, a new business, or a new way of doing business — but feel nervous + ashamed about your beginner-status, let me give you a few words of advice:
Get over it.
You won’t be a beginner forever, but while you’re there … enjoy it! Soak up everything you can from the experience.
Here are my hard-won tips on how to do it:
1. Ask LOTS of questions. Pretending that you know everything already doesn’t serve you — or anybody else. (That’s how I fractured my foot in the first place!)
If you’re working with a trainer, a coach or a business consultant, ask questions! Curiosity allows you to learn and move forward — faster.
2. STOP caring what people think. That polished image you present to the world? Yeah, it won’t fly once you’re a beginner, again.
If you’re taking a public speaking class, attending a writing workshop, or recording a podcast for the first time, guess what? You might seem like an “amateur.” Because … um, hello? You ARE.
Show up, work hard, and quit caring about what people might think.
Everybody starts at square one. The real tragedy is not being brave enough to even step onto that square. TWEET IT.
3. Focus on your progress — not other people’s “success.” One of my all-time favorite quotes is: “Don’t compare your life to somebody else’s highlight reel.”
As a beginner, it will always feel like everybody is so much better than you. But what you’re not seeing is all of the hard work THEY put in to get to the place they are now.
Make no mistake: once, they were floundering around, just like you. Let the people who are checking the “Advanced” box inspire you with their amazing progress … but don’t feel shitty about yourself because you’re not at their level.
4. Embrace humility. Being a beginner is a huge lesson in humility. And humility is one of the best things you can have as a business owner — and human being.
Are you humble enough to handle it, when you get some negative feedback from a customer? Humble enough to roll with it, when a friend gets picked for a speaking gig that you wanted? Humble enough to stay chill — and not get a big, bloated head — when you DO get something that you want?
Try being a beginner, again, and humility will be your new reality.
As for me?
I’ll be back at the gym, all week long, working towards the day when I can tick that precious “Intermediate” box, once again.
I’m a beginner. And prrrroud of it.