In The Artist’s Way, author Julia Cameron has a line that is just great. Cameron says, “It is impossible to get better and look good at the same time.”
I love that line. Too often when we want to improve to look better, we don’t realize that we won’t improve unless we ignore looking good temporarily while we focus more on improvement.
If we are unhappy with our physical appearance and want to get in shape, we have to start working out and exercising. But I remember when I first started to get healthy it certainly didn’t look good.
I was about 50 lbs over my ideal weight. So I would exercise but I felt that moving in that manner made me feel even more overweight and embarrassed. Instead of looking better, exercise was making me look worse.
The same thing happened when I started my business doing audio engineering. When I first started, there were no expectations. But as I wanted to improve I had to learn new tools and techniques that made my recordings sound worse, not better. But over time as I honed these skills I could make them sound better and better. But the first time I would use a new tool like a compressor or limiter it made things sound worse until I starting learning how to dial it in to make it sound good.
I see this with friends who want to be able to play the guitar. They can hold it and “pretend” to play and look pretty cool. But once they start learning the techniques and struggling to play even the most basic cords, they look and sound foolish.
We have to be able to set aside the idea of looking good now so that we can do the work to look better later. This is very difficult but can help to avoid the shock of being criticized for early work.
Instant success is an illusion not a reality. When we look at someone who is successful it can be easy to assume it happened instantly for him or her. We only hear about them after they put all the work in to improve and get to a high level. The years of struggle happen before we even hear about them so we assume they didn’t actually happen.
So as you set out to improve, shift your focus to be on improving not looking good. Ignore the ego’s desire to always look perfect and instead work at getting better.