How to Embrace Being a Beginner (in the Perfection-Driven Music Industry)

If you watched the winter Olympics last month, you might have seen the Samsung commercial based around the tagline, “do what you can’t.”

Here’s the gist:

It starts with parents encouraging their young kids to take their first steps, to leap into a pool, to ride a bike without training wheels…

But then something shifts.

As the kids grow up, the world starts telling them what they can’t do.

This commercial reflects how many musicians talk to themselves.

As an accomplished musician, you’ve spent your life mastering your instrument so it’s easy to expect that same level of mastery in all areas of your life.

This is especially true when it comes to marketing yourself and growing your network.

You want to say the right thing on social media. You want to get a “yes” when you pitch your project. You want to negotiate with ease and earn the rate you deserve.

Free download: The Art of Pitching for Musicians

It’s human to want to skip ahead to expert status.

But avoiding being a beginner is detrimental to your career (and individual) growth.

Can being a beginner actually help your career?

(Spoiler alert: it can.)

How can you become more comfortable with not being good at some things (yet)?

That’s what we’re going to talk about today.

You’re holding yourself to an impossible standard

If you’re not used to promoting yourself on social media, writing cold emails to presenters, or negotiating with venues, you’re setting an impossibly high standard for yourself if you expect to excel at these things from the start.

Sure, you’ll eventually want to have a handle on these tasks. And although you’ll never be perfect at them (no one is), you at least want to feel confident in your abilities.

And that’s what I want for you too!

But getting there takes time, and reaching expert status requires being a beginner first.

Reaching expert status requires you to be a beginner first. Click To Tweet

As a beginner, you simply won’t be good at some things, at least not at first. Eventually you’ll learn what works—and maybe it will even become second nature.

But, when you’re just learning these skills, you will flub and fall and even fail.

What’s worse?

You’re opening yourself up to the possibility of failing in front of people.

And that can be a hard pill to swallow.

Oops… your beginner status is showing

You might remember that last year I reclaimed my identity as a musician and that I took a musical writing course, piano lessons, and even ukulele lessons.

Upon returning to music at this stage in my life one thing quickly became clear:

I can’t B.S. my way through the process and pretend I’ve figured out more than I have.

Whether I’m in front of my teachers or my fellow students—or even on a Facebook live—it’s out there and I can’t hide my newness.

And that’s often what stops most of us from ever trying something new. We’re afraid to fail, especially publicly.

We don’t want to show the world what we don’t know.

If you prefer to present yourself as having it all together and you fear you’ll be “found out,” you’ll stop before you start, overthink every step, or dip your toe in without fully committing.

The result?

Your fan base will never pick up momentum because you’re afraid to post on Facebook or Twitter (because no one will “like” or comment on your post).

You’ll never get the gigs you want because the email you’re writing to a presenter isn’t “good enough” yet, so you never hit send.

You’ll accept the first offer a venue makes and are left wondering if you could have made more money.

Being afraid to stumble and show the world that you’re a beginner is detrimental to your career.

You must open yourself to the freedom that resides in beginning anew.

Our suggestion for you: 5 Mature Ways to Handle Failure

Find the freedom in being a beginner

According to a 2015 survey by social network Linkagoal, 1 in 3 Americans were found to be scared of failure (31%).

In fact, we’re more afraid of failure than we are of spiders (30%), being home alone (9%), or even the paranormal (15%).

But we don’t have to be so afraid!

I believe being a beginner—and risking failing—has its advantages.

As a beginner you tend to make a lot of progress quickly, and the first steps you take tend to be big ones.

It’s exciting to take a leap in progress and reach what you previously thought was unreachable.

You can also see what others who have been “in it” for too long can’t. Beginners often see more possibility, which empowers them keep pushing ahead even when things get hard.

And lastly, when you’re a beginner the stakes aren’t as high. You have the freedom to experiment, try new things, and discover your voice.

Logically, it might be easy to see why being a beginner has its benefits.

But understanding the logic and actually feeling courageous enough to begin are two separate things.

So how can you become bold enough to begin?

Stay courageous in the face of failure

There’s always going to be more you don’t know. Being able to work on what you don’t know with more comfort and acceptance is incredibly valuable for achieving your creative goals.

It’s true that you can’t B.S. your way through it. Your lack of knowledge might be highly apparent, and you might might fail.

But it’s important to recognize that “not failing” isn’t the goal!

The real goal is to build your own courage.

Publishing the post, sending the email, or asking for what you really want is a huge win simply because you did it!

The outcome doesn’t matter.

Even if you fail—maybe you say the wrong thing or get rejected—it doesn’t mean that you’re not worthy of success, or that you’re not smart, or that you should feel humiliated.

Real failure is believing it when the world (or yourself) tells you that “you can’t do it.”

When you hear that voice, remember the surprisingly wise words of the Samsung ad execs: Do what you can’t.

It starts with daring to begin.

Our suggestion for you: The Best Way to Overcome Obstacles in Life

What can you boldly begin?

Leave a comment below and share an area in your career where you can take a bold step forward.

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