Click to hear me read this post:
Come on, baby, brush it off, let it go.
Don’t stop now, love, you will figure this out.
You’ve got this, kiddo, keep going.
That’s some legit advice right there, no? Up against the casual panic of our wild ego minds, this stuff sounds good to hear; some solid, grounded, encouraging words for the one who refuses to quit.
Words that remind her how brave she is for showing up. Words that compliment his determination, that congratulate his trying, his moving, his putting it out there.
We see this with kids all the time: learning to walk, learning to speak, learning to ride a bike, to write, to dance, to not put peas up their nose (in their ears, etc.). Kids are precious and innocent and we allow them to get about the exploration, to get messy, to fall off.
To get back up.
Then we grow up and we are graded and ranked and advised and lectured and structured and denied more and more freedoms to explore. Instead of expecting to fall and heal, we come to believe that to avoid the fall altogether is the responsible thing to do.
Somehow we decided – or they decided and we went along with it – that it is now time to get serious and be serious and act serious.
Seriously, get a real job. Seriously, get in line, head down, fit in. No, for real – the jig is up ok, you are not a kid anymore. Get about the suit and tie, the rat race, the competition.
All these teeming expectations of what it means to grow up, all implied, all to crowd out our collective fear of the stumble, of the blood, of the creation. Of the beginning.
It would be a huge disservice to you guys if I didn’t make this way one of the seven.
To ignore this crucial part of the beginner’s mind would be to leave a jagged gaping hole torn into the center of the stitched-together fabric of what makes up the beginner’s terrain, her experience, her calling and her quest for fullness.
Up until now we have been focused on what gives the beginner an advantage, a leg up; what makes him the dark horse.
The ways of the beginner bring about incredibly powerful creativity, goodness and change but there’s one thing we must not deceive ourselves about and that is this:
Beginning is fucking hard.
If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be able to make a juicy seven week series out of it and still have plenty more to talk about. We wouldn’t have bookstores stacked and packed with self help reads all focused on inspiration and motivation. Tony Robbins wouldn’t be a gazillionaire.
Great artists and contemplative philosophers and exceptional thought leaders (and Nike) wouldn’t spend so much time encouraging us to do it.
So as much as it is true that the beginner is met with the support of the Universe the split instant she commits, and as much as we’ve unearthed about the advantages of beginner’s mind, the truth is it’s still incredibly, soul stretchingly, gut wrenchingly, mind bendingly hard to begin doing the work that matters to us.
“Those who would make art might well begin by reflecting on the fate of those who preceded them: most who began, quit. . . those who continue to make art are those who have learned how to continue – or more precisely, have learned how to not quit.”
– David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear: Observations on the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking
I would argue that to ‘learn how to not quit’ is the same thing as to learn how to keep beginning. This is what we are doing here together now. We are digging into what it actually means to master the beginning of a thing and in so doing, master the continuing of doing any thing, any art, any work.
And there is a major difference between mastering and succeeding; between mastering and ‘becoming perfect at.’
“Mastery requires endurance. Mastery, a word we don’t use often, is not the equivalent of what we might consider its cognate – perfectionism – an inhuman aim motivated by a concern with how others view us. Mastery is also not the same as success – an event-based victory based on a peak point, a punctuated moment in time. Mastery is not merely a commitment to a goal, but to a curved-line, constant pursuit.”
Let’s not kid ourselves, right. It takes commitment and guts to wake up every day and begin again. And so acknowledging this means that beginners do something we often don’t allow ourselves to do: cut themselves some damn slack.
The beginner is constantly forgiving herself and moving on. He is relentlessly shaking off mistakes – letting go of what is over and done and expanding outward into the present moment. Into new terrain, new territory.
Because they know it won’t come fast and it won’t come easy. And they don’t expect it to. There is no overnight success when it comes to the pursuit of creating what we love. The mastery is in the endless pursuit.
If I’ve been able to demonstrate nothing else with these few heartfelt posts in this little Beginner’s Luck Series, I hope I’ve at the very least – at the bare bones minimum – invited us to consider that we are all beginners. All of us, all the time.
And because of that we should be nothing but humble about our achievements and our struggles. We should have nothing but reverence for every single other person on this planet because if everyone is a beginner then everyone is vulnerable and everyone is struggling in some way.
Everyone who takes a blessed breath is a beginner. Everyone is a beginning in progress. Just like you, everyone else is fighting their own internal battle over whether or not to keep trying, to keep pursuing excellence, or to quit.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” – Pogo
Just because an artist got up this morning and spun the magic doesn’t guarantee he’ll have the guts to do it again tomorrow. The demons of resistance always reappear.
And every time we rag on someone who is making honest attempts to live according to their own path, every time we pick on each other for following a dream, every time we try to keep another person’s ambitions small, we are stunting the growth of ourselves and of the world.
Yet we’ve allowed pain and ridicule to surround us, to be our entertainment. No wonder it’s tough for us to begin making art that truly matters to us. No wonder that first step is a massive challenge when we want to step out in love against a world that feeds on ego and fear.
There is resistance from within and resistance from without. The ego is a master mixer of madness and illusion.
We fight him daily.
“As soon as you concern yourself with the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.”
– Morihei Ueshiba, The Art of Peace
The way of the beginner is to recognize the beginner in the other. To see it and to respect it. The way to shine light for each other is to keep at it ourselves.
So cut yourself a break, my sweet loves. Cut the other guy a break.
Let yourself try. Let them try.
The beginner’s mind makes better art because he is constantly renewing himself, repeatedly pushing up against the struggle, brushing shoulders with “You sure you’re up for this?” and moving onward.
It’s important, it matters and it’s hard. And when we’re grown up and still have training wheels because we’ve never been quite sure how to grow into our greatest selves, we deserve compassion for every attempt to create, to get back up.
And too often after the age of maybe 2 – we don’t get it.
So here is some straight up love, kids, from me to you – You are a beginner and it’s awesome. And it’s a divine and sacred thing. Stepping into your power as a creative being is the most beautiful work there is and it shines light on all the world around you. Please don’t forget this and don’t underestimate the importance of mastering this, guys.
Don’t forget the slightness of your life. Living it in your way, in your truth, as a powerful, brave, frightened, hopeful, flawed, courageous beginner is the way we heal the world. It’s the way art and love and connection are changing the world and we are lifting each other up.
If it’s rough and if you need a gentle reassurance that you are exactly where you need to be – let this be it.
Our rugged beginner, though passionate, well equipped and agile, will face the inevitable struggle of stepping into his full potential. It is not easy to stay committed to our craft and to our path, it is tough. That’s why many do not stay the course.
It is not easy to keep working on your dream when it’s one the world doesn’t seem to understand. When it’s one the world actually seems to want to keep you from.
It is important and it is not easy to begin to go your own way. To wake up to who you truly are (love) and what you are designed to do (expand love).
We have a culture that glorifies gossip and violence and trashing each other. We have the gargantuan, monster-sized machine that is the entertainment industry built on greed and drama and cruelty. Distraction from our soul work is erected all around us, all the time.
But underneath all the noise is a silent knowing. An unshakable, immovable truth.
The truth that we only have this one life – this paper thin, delicately fragile life. That we only have so many beautiful breaths. That even though it may be tough to do, we only have this one moment, this now, to choose to begin to do what we love.
When I read the quote I’m about to share with you for the first time, it rocked my whole world. I literally wanted to eat the luscious words with a knife and fork and ingest them so they’d be forever part of my makeup. It’s a quote by Seth Godin from his latest cultural contribution, a book titled What To Do When It’s Your Turn.
“Mostly a memo to the struggling human who faces the abyss of taking a turn and is sure this is the end of everything: it’s not.
Someone has been here before you.
In fact, almost everyone you admire has.
It seems like an abyss, like the valley of no return, but in fact, this is precisely the way it’s supposed to feel. It’s that valley that insulates this territory from the rest of our ordinary lives, that keeps this work scarce, that gives us a sense that we’re doing something truly important.
Don’t deny the feeling, or run from it or try to stamp it out.
Celebrate this fear and this thrill, because it’s the dance you are about to do that will make the work worth doing.”
– Seth Godin, What To Do When It’s Your Turn
It’s time to say that beginning to do the art that matters, the work of your soul, can be majorly tough at times. Hard to do, to choose, and to stand by. It’s hard to have a vision no one else can see. It’s hard to work on something that cannot be fully explained or proven.
But we have to get used to it. Because beginnings are hard but they are also constant. To live fully is to be an endless beginner, to be uncovering and discovering over and over and over.
And the thing is, it’s not just the kids who need to know it’s OK to stumble and to try. You are precious and you are innocent, too.
So come on, baby, brush it off, let it go.
Don’t stop now, love, you will figure this out.
You’ve got this, kiddo.
~ ~ ~
Hi angel, new here? Subscribe by email at the top of this page for updates and exclusive content (never junk, only grooviness – promise). ;)