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There’s a simple truth in life that I have encountered too many times to count… If I want to be any good at anything, first of all, I have khổng lồ be willing to be bad at it. Learning & skill development are processes, not instant-gratification. So, instead of giving up on something if I don’t execute it perfectly the first time I try, I’ve learned that persistence counts for far more than “natural” talent. And one of the brilliant things about we humans is that we can learn how to stick with being bad at something long enough to lớn become good at it.

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Insta-success usually isn’t

It seems lượt thích the ultimate claim to lớn fame is being “a natural”. Think of how often you see praise for someone’s “freakish” ability or their “genius”; those people who bust onto the scene with fully-developed talent. Almost no one talks about how hard they have worked for their achievements. An accomplishment that looks effortless is valued over the daily toil of practising a skill over và over in order to become great.

And while the “naturals” are given accolades và adoration, it can be easy to overlook the path that got them there. Pick anyone with a world-class talent, whether sports, academia or any kind of creative pursuit. Learn a little bit about their background. You’ll almost always come across stories of many hours spent, và many mistakes made, in pursuit of their chosen skill.

Natural talent takes practice


In his book ‘Outliers’ , Malcolm Gladwell popularised the notion that with 10,000 hours of practice, someone can become an expert.

While the “10,000 hours rule” is generally discredited as a hard-and-fast rule (as this post explains), it is true that it takes time and dedication to become good at something, even if you possess a natural talent or passion.

No one is ever an expert from their very first attempt. Have you ever heard of someone picking up a violin for the first time and playing lượt thích a virtuoso? Nope, me neither! But almost everyone, given a patient teacher and the opportunity to practise, will be able khổng lồ play a few notes. & the better your teachers, the more frequent & focused your mental & physical practising, và the more dedicated you are khổng lồ improving, the better you will play.

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Start with the bad

So, before we can be good at something, we have khổng lồ be willing lớn be bad at it. What does that mean? When we start, we’re guaranteed khổng lồ make mistakes, get frustrated, feel lượt thích we’re getting worse rather than better, want khổng lồ give up, go on to lớn make even more mistakes, & wish we’d never even started.

Then one day, a little something just clicks; we have a success. Something we’ve never quite been able to vị before happens as if by magic. We have an “I’ve got this!” moment. That’s usually enough motivation lớn send us back to lớn our practice again, looking for that next little jolt of excitement. Và then we’re back lớn mistakes, frustration, & thinking about quitting… until the next “click”.

How I learned that I needed lớn be OK with being bad


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My host family joked that I slept with my dictionary under my pillow!

I first encountered this principle when I was learning Portuguese while living in Brazil on a student exchange. No one in my town could speak English, so it was just me & my Collins Gem dictionary (this was before smartphones và Google Translate!)

I always have high expectations of myself, & I really dislike making mistakes. I struggled so much in those first weeks, unable to string a simple sentence together without paging through my dictionary. There were very few “clicks”, many mistakes và much frustration. So I very rarely spoke up (which is a major departure from my usual mode of being). Did it frustrate me? You bet! Did I want khổng lồ quit? Absolutely! But if I had quit, I would have had khổng lồ figure out how khổng lồ explain that I wanted khổng lồ bring forward my plane ticket by 10 months. As I could barely ask directions lớn the supermarket (let alone understand the reply), that sort of complicated feat was completely beyond me!

I realised that I was learning slowly because I wanted to avoid making mistakes. So I had lớn be ok with being bad at first & trusting that the “clicks” would come. That meant speaking awful, mangled, poorly-pronounced Portuguese until I learned how lớn speak slightly better Portuguese.

Then I got khổng lồ be good

Three months into my 11-month stay, I lost my Collins Gem dictionary. Initially, I was terrified, but it turned out to lớn be the best thing ever. I started trusting my host family và friends (and even the occasional stranger!) to lớn explain the language & help me develop my vocabulary và pronunciation. By using words I already knew lớn pick up more words (just like we vị as kids, learning our first language), my learning took off – things were clicking every day. I spent the next eight months building a fluency that has lasted almost a quarter of a century và helped me learn two other languages.

How lớn stick with being bad before you get good

I didn’t instantly become comfortable with being bad at Portuguese, but I stumbled across two techniques that helped motivate me to stick with it. Khổng lồ this day, I use them when I’m going through the “bad” phase with any new skill. They are: I write down what I already bởi or know, and I mentally rehearse what I’ve learned.

Write it down


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Write down what you know, and do it regularly. Image source: Pexels.com

When I’m learning a language, I regularly write a list of every single word that I already know. When I’m learning a new skill, I regularly write down a danh mục of the processes or procedures I have learned, và techniques to make it easier.

It sounds simple, but seeing the lists grow over time encourages me that I’m making progress. It’s like having something click every time I write a list.

Mental practice


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Practising new skills in your mind can translate into ‘real world’ performance gains. Image source: Pexels.com

Then I replay what I’ve learned in my head. Whether that’s picturing myself executing a dance move, following a procedure, or imagining a foreign-language conversation, I mentally practice my new skills. There is evidence that this approach is extremely effective for skill development, especially in physical pursuits. This post gives a good overview of how to lớn use it (in a sports context, but I believe it holds true for any skill).

Bad khổng lồ good in a nutshell

We all have to lớn start somewhere – & that will usually be “bad”, compared khổng lồ where we want lớn be.If we can embrace being bad, we get ourselves on the path lớn being good.Getting from bad to good takes persistence và patience.Regular use of a couple of simple techniques can help improve our skills and keep us motivated.