Somewhere pretty close to 30 years ago this month, I learned how to ride a bicycle. I’d like to pretend that I remember such a pivotal moment in life like it was yesterday, but obviously that’s not true since I don’t even remember exactly when it happened. (Nor do I remember what I did yesterday.) But here’s what I do remember: my father took me out into the parking lot behind our house. I watched him take the training wheels off my bicycle, and all the while he promised that I wouldn’t fall. He pushed me around so I could get a feel for things, and all the while he promised that he wouldn’t let go. I felt so safe, so protected and loved.
And that’s about when I realized that my father had stopped holding on. I immediately realized that what I was doing was impossible, so I did what every six-year-old does the first time they ride a bike without training wheels – I fell down, started crying, and swore I’d never ride a bike again.
I learned a lot of things that day. Mostly I learned that my father is a liar and can’t be trusted with important things like child safety. But I also learned that my father wasn’t going to let me cry my way out of going back to a bike with training wheels, and that he was a lot stronger than I was and could pretty much force me to do whatever he wanted. So I learned how to ride a bicycle that day, thanks in part to my own tenacious persistence but primarily because I was afraid my Dad would kill me if I didn’t get up and try again. Thanks, Dad!
I don’t know what you’re trying to accomplish this month. But in case you don’t have someone around who can realistically threaten you with death or starvation or homelessness in the event of your failure, here are a couple things that should help you get where you want to be.
Do Some Research
I’m sorry, did I say ‘research’? Whoops. Research sounds boring, doesn’t it. What I meant was, ‘Watch some video tutorials.’ And in case ‘tutorials’ sounds a little too educational for you, what if you just watch some videos? That’s pretty harmless, right? The entire wealth of human knowledge is a click away, and there are 48 trillion how-to videos that can teach you pretty much anything from banjo playing to computer hacking. Fun bonus: some of those videos don’t even suck too much!
Remind Yourself Of Something You’ve Learned Recently
I’m 1,000,000% certain that you’re not the same person you were two years ago. You’ve learned some new things since then. Some of them have been forced upon you, and others are skills you’ve developed slowly over that time. As long as you can remember that you’re better now than you were then, you should be less concerned about tackling whatever’s in front of you right now. (Side note: I think it’s awesome that we always know more today than we did yesterday. That means all of us are simultaneously the smartest we’ve ever been, and that we also used to be really, really stupid. I can’t wait until I’m 80 and can say, “Wow, when I was 70 I didn’t know squat.”)
Write Down What You Learn From Each Failure Along The Way
There’s no way around it – you’re going to screw up from time to time. I mean seriously, you occasionally spill water on yourself when you tilt the glass back a little too far. If you sometimes fail at drinking things, you’re probably going to fail at whatever more complicated task you have in front of you. But as long as you walk away from each of those failures with an understanding of why you failed and how you need to modify your approach going forward, then it’s not even really a failure.
Really the only factor that determines whether you’ll succeed at a thing or not is whether you’re willing to put in the energy necessary to get good at it. There’s honestly no other barrier. But if you’re having trouble getting motivated, I suggest you get in touch with my father. Because as far as I’m concerned, there’s nothing like a little paralyzing fear to help you realize you can accomplish a lot more than you thought you could. Love you, Dad!