As I mentioned in a few of my previous nuggets, I really enjoy watching masters in action, any master, any vocation or sport. You can call it my hobby if you will. From those I have studied I learned that feeling stupid is a requisite to becoming and expert. Every person who has achieved mastery has started their journey to expertise by feeling stupid. At first, embarking upon and acquiring the new knowledge causes plenty of awkwardness and plenty of embarrassment. Eventually, if one persists, he or she develops more comfort with the new skills or new knowledge.
Recently I watched the movie, “The Imitation Game”. I was stunned to see a gigantic version of one of my childhood computer kits. There it was across the entire movie theater screen. Hundreds of dials spinning and working madly. Mine was but a miniature compared to that. I had 12 dials. The one in the movie had hundreds. Mine was a hobby set. The movie showed some serious business. I was about 9 years old felt stupid because I could not understand the instructions. He was an adult who knew about it because he wrote the book on it. I gave up because I felt stupid. He felt ridiculed, stupid, but he kept on going.
That movie made me think about the value that feeling stupid plays in each of our lives. Feeling stupid often beats people down and they give up. But those who don’t give up, rather, tolerate feeling stupid, often go on to achieve amazing accomplishments.
My judo lessons as a youngster made me feel stupid. Of all things to learn, our first lessons were about how to fall. Doesn’t everyone know how to fall? Not in the ways we were taught. Later in life, those very same falls, because they were “burned” into my brain cells, saved me from plenty of instances in which falling would have otherwise caused multiple bone fractures.
I can say I had the same embarrassment for feeling stupid when learning about photography. I started as a young teenager with no money but I did have a strong interest. I found a “coach” and asked plenty of stupid questions and felt stupid when I didn’t understand. I was lucky, though, my coach, Mr. Paul Waltz, was very patient. [Use the search box for “Paul Waltz”]. I eventually won a number of international photography awards, became a photographer for the local Chamber of Commerce and had enjoyed plenty of other great experiences which followed from persevering beyond my “feeling-stupid” period.
I even had a period of time when I wanted to become a writer. I spent hundreds of hours studying and eventually I tried to get a non-fiction book manuscript published. I felt plenty stupid after getting 120 rejections. Along the way I evolved into a writer for a handful of international magazines and also developed my skills as a photojournalist. I got published and enjoyed plenty of recognition in my market segment for my articles.
To overcome my feeling of stupid when embarking on a new experience, I persuade myself with this: “Learn from your mistakes.”. This was my takeaway from the wisdom written in the Bhagavid Gita: “The LESSON comes AFTER THE EXPERIENCE.” Feeling stupid is part of the learning curve.
As they say, “you never know until you try”. When you do try you likely will feel awkward, stupid. Feeling stupid is like a ticket, the fare, to climb aboard the vehicle that will have a relevant impact on the rest of your life.
If you don’t feel stupid from time to time you may not be pushing yourself hard and often enough.