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Taking on something new

Improving Systems and Habits

Scott Miker is the author of several books that describe how to use systems and habits to improve.  This free blog provides articles that to help understand the principles related to building systems.  

Taking on something new

Scott Miker

Whenever we take on something new we tend to go through an awkward stage. I remember learning to play the guitar when I was younger. I could barely remember where my fingers were supposed to go to form the chords.

I would stumble around and take pauses between notes. It was completely un-musical. It sounded horrible. If I didn’t explain the song I was trying to play nobody would think it was a real song.

We all go through this. Because when we are learning something, we don’t have a full grasp of what is happening. So we have to ask basic questions just to understand what is going on.

The same thing happens whenever we explore something new. When I started to eat healthier I first thought I just had to find frozen food that said, “low fat,” “natural” or “lean”. But these words are thrown around all the time and certainly don’t translate to a balanced, nutritious meal.

But I had to jump in and work my way through nutrition before I could develop a healthier diet. I had to be awkward and clumsy in the first few stages.

When I started to exercise I felt the same way. I was about 40-50 lbs. overweight. I jumped on my brother’s mountain bike and started pedaling. It felt great to rid a bike again after about 10-15 years but I felt completely out of place. I could feel my stomach folding over my pants and started to sweat instantly.

I was completely out of shape and it showed. I had to be willing to be out-of-place in order to finally gain my health back. It took years. In fact, after about 15 years of exercising regularly and losing significant weight and I still had to make adjustments and tweaks to my process in order to keep making progress. The whole time I felt out-of-place each time I made an adjustment.

Recently I decided to start a new system. Years ago I read about Jerry Seinfeld and some advice he gave to an up-and-coming comedian. He said to write jokes every day, no matter what. He said to write daily and not worry about how good they were, just that he kept doing it.

I have never really thought about doing any sort of comedy work. Truthfully I’m not very funny.

But I started to realize that I tend to get very locked into work at times and it adds stress. So I thought that I could relax my mind a bit by searching for the funny moments in my life.

So I started to write jokes daily. But I forgot how awkward it is to start something new such as this. Each joke comes out less funny that it sounds in my head, and it isn’t that funny to begin with!

But I’m noticing an interesting side effect. I tend to take a light-hearted approach though my day a little more than before. I can chuckle at mistakes I make and can remain in a much better mood throughout my day.

Even though this new system I am creating is producing some awful comedy, it is still providing benefits to my life. Rather than realize I am a hidden, comedy genius, I am realizing that comedy is difficult but that we all tend to take life a bit more seriously than we probably should. Relaxing and stopping to see the humor provides benefit to life and helps us see a balanced perspective of the world.

So whatever it is you are trying to learn and do, don’t let the awkward beginning dictate the outcome. Stick with it through the annoying first part and soon you will gain enough understanding to be able to gain from your efforts instead of feeling clumsy and weird.