So recently, I’ve started learning HEMA, which means Historic European Martial Arts.

This is a fancy term for swordfighting.

I love it. I had always wanted to learn a martial art of some kind – you hear it’s so good for the body and mind, but I was never able to really generate interest in actually going out and taking classes and learning.

Apparently what was missing for me was a 4 foot piece of steel and an average of 7 ‘just the tip’ jokes per hour.

So, I’m loving it.

And I really suck at it.

I spent an hour NOT managing to hit my sparring partners sword in the right way.

It looks simple – but it’s actually really complex – and there’s a marriage between your hand-eye coordination, your muscle movements, and footwork that is WAY beyond my skills or experience.

It’s frustrating. It makes me question myself, and feel embarrassed because no one else seems to have as much trouble as I do.

And that’s all excellent. That is, probably, more valuable to me on a day to day basis than actually learning to fight with a weapon that went out of fashion a couple of hundred years ago.

Here’s why.

Like many of you – I am highly competent in my field. I teach. I manage. I consult. I develop and execute sites and systems in minutes. I confidently advise people on how to earn their livelihoods and navigate their working relationships every day.

It’s easy, once you start to gain mastery in certain areas of your life, to forget how HARD it is to be a beginner. For things to be strange and new and complicated and kind of make you want to cry.

We’re entrepreneurs. Largely we don’t have professional development days, or a governing body saying “this is the new thing you must learn.” We have to do it ourselves, and I absolutely believe we must.

We take people’s money to do things for them that they either can’t or, for whatever reason, don’t want to do for themselves. Most people are not overburdened with worldly wealth, and taking their money is a bigger responsibility than we often think about. We owe it to them to not be overconfident. To be compassionate about the fact that this is scary. To empathise with where THEY are as well as communicate where WE are.

So we need to put ourselves in situations where we suck. Despite all of the rhetoric out there about owning your confidence and shouting about yourself from the rooftops, which is, don’t get me wrong – really important!  – it becomes very toxic, very quickly when we forget what it’s like to not know what to do, or how to do it. And forgetting that feeling of misery and fear and embarrassment means we’re at real risk of becoming real assholes. And not effectively DOING what we want to do with the things we’re good at.

So pick a thing. Pick a thing you know NOTHING about, and start learning from the ground up. It can be anything – that skill you always wanted to learn. That business tactic that will pay off in the long run. A hobby you want to take up to relax.

If possible – take a class or some other learning method where you have access to an instructor. This makes everything a lot easier.

Once you’ve picked your thing, here’s what to do as you fumble your way through the beginning stages.

  1. Ask for help loudly, publicly and often. You’re going to be requiring your clients and customers to tell you when they don’t get something – you have to be familiar with the same.
  2. Push back when you don’t understand. Be THAT student who won’t stop until you get it. This is hard and can be a little humiliating. But push through it. You deserve to feel that breakthrough moment.
  3. Consider HOW you are learning as well as WHAT you are learning. Really consider the PROCESS of learning that you are going through.

Immerse yourself in entry level failure. It’ll keep you honest, and keep you open to the different levels of experience that your different clients, customers and colleagues are in at the moment.

There’s another benefit too – I hope you didn’t think a bit of humility was the only thing we were going for here! By continually learning new things, you’re going to be training your brain to be elastic and adaptive. In the online world, being able to pick up new skills, and have a deep understanding of how we learn new things will make sure we’re able to stay on top of all of the new tools and technologies and opportunities that present themselves.