How to Win At Trying New Things
In my alternative reality life, I’m a coach. (Probably baseball, maybe football. No, really, for real. Dream job.) But if there was such a thing as a Try New Things Coach, this is my speech I’d give to you. Ready, Team??
We all walk into rooms where we don’t know anyone, or volunteer to lead or be a part of a situation we are a bit uneasy about simply because we’ve never done it before or even bigger deals like getting a job or going back to school…
All things that give you that weird empty feeling in your stomach – not the empty feeling that only cookies will satisfy, more that empty feeling of stepping out over an abyss and thinking, well, shoot, why did I wear my new boots if I’m just going to ruin them?
I’ve grown to love that feeling. Here’s how:
1 – Keep trying new things. If you haven’t tried something new in the last two weeks – what are you waiting for? Start small. Try a new drink from Starbucks. Try a new deli you’ve never been to. Learn that sometimes your choices don’t work out and you hate the pickle ham lettuce ketchup sandwich. So what? What did you lose? Nothing. Try the other deli tomorrow. The world did not end. Start applying this to bigger situations. You tried learning how to knit and failed and ended up with what could only be described as a hole-y quadrilateral? (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything…) Guess what? Who cares?? Nobody. Other people are really good at knitting. I don’t see it as a threat – I see it as, “wow, you are super good at knitting, because I know how hard it is to get it just right! Can I make you some coffee?”
2 – Try new things in an area you are good at – I play the piano. I was, however, trained classically (which makes it sound way cooler than I took lessons from a dude that said, “we play the notes of the masters as they wrote them” and never taught me to improvise.). When I want to play at church, this means I have absolutely no talent whatsoever in improvising. But I still volunteer to play. Here’s why:
-I never oversell myself. But I don’t undersell myself either. I say: Here is what I can do for you as a volunteer (show up on time, have a good attitude, play the music to the best of my ability). Here is what I can’t do (I cannot play a solo improv during this part of the service or I will die.). Trust me, this is hard to admit to – especially when you’re admitting it to people who A) are better than you at what you’re admitting you’re not good at (follow that?) and B) people who have egos. They will take advantage of this and make you feel like a complete idiot. Stay within yourself and don’t let those egotistical people get you down – life lesson: people with egos are actually people with no self-confidence at all.
But at the end of the day, I know that I can play the piano. I’m not the best. But I’m good at it. Which means when I play, I enjoy it and learn every time. Note that I do not sign up to play the french horn. I see people all the time apply for things they can’t handle thinking that with a little confidence, you can succeed – uh no… let’s be smart about what we pick to win at.
3 – Try new things with people you are comfortable with and can be honest with – Last week two of my kids and I joined some friends we know in handing out some little bags of treats to a neighborhood where we invite the kids to a group we host during the year. Doing this was not in our comfort zone. And you know what we said to each other? “This is SOOOOO not my comfort zone.” And we did it and took turns talking. We shared the burden of the “new.” Bonus, make sure you have friends who aren’t egotistical – it makes everything better (see number 2 above).
4 – Enter the new situation with the thought of, “I’m here for an A.” Understand what I’m saying, I don’t mean this in a take-down-the-other-people kind of way… I mean this in a House M.D. kind of way. Did you ever watch the show House? At one point in the series, he has newbie doctors following him around learning from him and also trying to be hired by him as the new assistant. It is a tough, brutal process and one of the students immediately works hard, studies- and makes enemies of the others. But in one episode she says something along the lines of, “Why do I care, I’m here for an A.” She has laser focus on doing x.y. and z. And she does it. (Although, I still say you don’t have to take out other people to win.)
This has helped me tremendously in doing school – I have had to write papers, submit papers for peer reviews, and yesterday had to do an online discussion that was live where our faces were on the screen as well. (There are so few makeup tips for online theological discussions out there… ha! ) I psych myself up by saying, “I’m here for an A.” X, Y, Z – done. In a situation where I feel out of my depth, I’m slowly learning that actually, I’m completely in my depth. Is that a thing?? As that cool quote goes, “You never know how tall you are, until you’re in over your head.”
5 – Fake it til you make it. Enter the room like you belong there. Smile. Ask people questions about themselves because if nothing else, people love to talk about themselves. Find common ground. Observe what others are doing to accomplish the goal. I was downtown the other night for the Cubs game. The person I was with asked if I knew how to get back to the train after the game, I said, I sort of do, but mainly I just follow the other people. Which is exactly what we did after the game. We faked like we knew where we were going, by following the crowd. (But if the crowd jumps off a bridge – don’t. Had to say that.)
6 – You will lose. Learn that when you try new things, you will lose. You will have embarrassing moments. You will say stupid things. You will also wake up the next day and life will go on. By failing, it does not mean you are a failure. It means that one attempt you made failed that one time, on that one day. If anything, you made others feel better about themselves – good for you, you encourager!! Try again. The end.
7 – Enjoy the process. Obviously, we all have different personalities. And some love trying the new and some don’t. But we all, at some point or another, are forced to try new things. Realizing we do have choices in how to approach these new things is empowering. Also realizing nobody else knows what they’re doing is freeing. Get out there and try.
Ready team?? You go put on those cute new boots. We’ve got some trying to do.