Last year I started drawing. I picked up something new because the world was shutting down. As a photographer, I could not organize shoots as I used to nor could I interact with people as often given the novel nature of the virus. The only thing I could do was stay inside and learn to draw.
It would be 15 years since I last drew. The thought of picking up a pencil and drawing again was frightening. I knew I could not draw well. I could already hear the voices in my head tell me that there was no point in pursuing this.
This experience of embarking on something new made me afraid of uncertainty. To manage the flood of emotions that came with the novelty, I developed a rather pragmatic approach to this challenge and in this article, I want to share with you four ways to go about starting something new.
As I sit at my desk, pencil in hand and a blank A5 sheet staring back at me, I think back to my early days in high school. I think back to a hot and dusty afternoon in 2008. I was standing face to face with the school basketball coach. Surrounding the two of us was the whole basketball team spread out on the court. His facial expression clearly seemed perplexed at what I had just asked him.
“What did you say?”, he asked surprised. I took a deep breath and anxiously answered “Sir, can I join the Team?” His blank stare made me even the more anxious. I felt like I was standing at the edge of a cliff. The slightest slip would send me falling to my death. “You mean to tell me it has taken you two years to realise that you want to play basketball?,” came back his response.
As the sun beat down on my body and sweat dripped all over my head, I gathered the last ounces of my courage and answered “Yes sir. It’s taken me that long.” He made an almost evil grin before saying “Good. I want you to make one hundred laps around the court. Everyone else practice your plays!” and walked away.
I was left shocked at what I had been asked to do. One hundred laps! When was I going to finish those? In as much as the task ahead was great, I was glad that I faced my fear and gotten into the team.
Lesson 1:Feel the Fear but Do it Anyway.
As I thought back to this incident in high school, I started to find the courage to face my fear of picking up something new. As with every new thing that we face in life, fear, doubt, and uncertainty will always creep up.
Fear is a necessary human emotion. Fear is innate in our psychology as a survival mechanism. We use it to stay alive and avoid situations that are dangerous or life threatening. The problem with fear is that it can sometimes be imagined.
When it comes to starting something new, we experience the fear to start. We experience it because we are uncertain about the future. We imagine the worst, yet we have not engaged in what we want to do. This fear is simply imagined.
Fear always feeds off what we are afraid of and that is why we cannot outrun it. We need to develop courage in the face of fear because courage starves us of fear.
On that hot dusty afternoon on the court, I faced my fear, my coach. Thirteen years later, I am faced with a similar predicament, drawing. So, I decided to feel the fear but do it anyway.
Lesson 2:Look for Lessons in Experiences
When we start something new it is important to be aware that we are going to go through a new experience. We can learn a lot about people and ourselves from these experiences. We therefore need to be on the look-out for the lessons that this new thing will teach us.
As I have engaged with the material on drawing there are things, I have learnt about myself. I have discovered that I am impatient with myself. There is an urge to draw everything well though I have not had enough practice drawing. I have also learnt that drawing circles can help calm me down and manage anxiety.
Looking for lessons in experiences forces us to be proactive and aware about the things that we are engaging in. We are taken out of the uncertainty and we are forced to face our doubts. We become more present in the novelty of what we are experiencing. New experiences reveal to us that there is more to ourselves than we think.
Lesson 3:In the Beginning Embrace Obscurity…
In the world we currently live in, there is a huge emphasis on visibility. Visibility takes precedence over good work. Absurd but true. There are two reasons why this is the case. First, validation. We want assurance that things will work out in our favour. Second, social pressure. Society has prioritised visibility above work ethic which causes us to mix up our priorities.
“There is no pressure when you are unknown. You can do what you want. Experiment. Do things for just the fun of it. When you’re unknown there is nothing to distract you from getting better.” These are the words of my favorite author Austin Kleon.
In the beginning, obscurity is an opportunity for you to really find yourself. This is what Austin Kleon is trying to say. When starting something new try your best to not to seek out validation and avoid the social pressure that comes with visibility. Work on gathering lessons from the experiences that you are having.
While in obscurity, try and remember that you may be carving out a completely new path. It is possible that you are the first of many who are traveling down this path. As you gather experiences, start sharing them. Sharing your experiences is a great way to become visible. First, become curious, then invite others to be curious with you.
These are some of the doodles I have been creating in the past month. I am seeing a gradual change in the amount of detail that I am adding to them as I progress every day. This is the first time I am sharing these and I invite you to wonder with me
Lesson 4:Check Your Motivations.
Motivations refer to the intentions behind starting a new endeavor. The reason you are motivated to engage in a new idea or project can either help you endure the tough times or call it quits. The intentions behind starting something new carry more meaning than the endeavor itself.
Motivation I have found can be thought about in terms of positivity or negativity. A positive motivation inspires courage and the drive to keep working while negative motivation is likely to drain you of energy and result in quitting.
I mention this as the last aspect of approaching something new because it is important to refer to your motivations on a regular basis. This process can really help you think about the direction that you want to take, goals that you want to set and even the possibility of starting something completely new altogether.
Mind your motivations. They are the foundation for the success or failure of the new thing that you take on.
Fear, doubt and uncertainty are natural emotions that we will experience when we start something new. These emotions will get in the way of taking the action required to start.
We therefore need to muster courage to face the fear we feel and become proactive and present by gathering lessons from our experiences as they will be used to face new challenges ahead. Work in obscurity. This will give you ample time to practice and become good at what you do. Finally, think about your motivation to start. This will either keep you going or drain you of energy.
So, start that new thing that you have always wanted to try and see where it goes. There is a lot to learn from the new experiences.
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