If At First You Don’t Succeed

Alisa BonsignoreI’m in a bit of a rut.

Sure, I’m very happy with the way my life is going right now, but there’s a lot of what I do that’s the same every day. A lot of it is the same stuff I was doing last year. Or two years ago. Or five.

Do you see a pattern?

At the end of last year, I went on vacation. I had a great time stepping outside my rut, but as soon as we landed in California I went right back to my old habits: same activities, same places, same faces. When was the last time I did something new in my everyday life?

But of course, new is scary. New is intimidating. Right? Come on, I can’t be the only one who feels this way.

But then I remembered a guy that I saw on vacation. He had come down to the bay to learn how to do stand-up paddleboarding. Now, stand-up paddleboarding isn’t easy, but this guy just didn’t get it at all. In the 30 minutes of his rental, he probably fell off the board 75 times.

I have to admit that I’m the kind of person who would have fallen the first time and been mortified. Was someone watching? What would people think? But this guy was different. Each and every time he fell, he laughed like crazy. He knew that he looked ridiculous. He knew that he just wasn’t getting it. But it didn’t matter. He was having a great time trying, and he didn’t care who saw him fall.

It was a perfect reminder at a perfect time: sure, there will be things you’re not good at – probably many things! – but you’ll never know unless you try.

This led me to a few basic truths about life:

  1. We can’t all be the best at everything. Sometimes we’ll struggle to even achieve mediocrity. And that’s ok, because nobody expects you to become a professional at everything… except maybe you.
  2. No one will criticize you for trying. In fact, people will probably be jealous and wish that they’d tried something new, too.
  3. Even if you fail spectacularly, you’ll have a great funny story to tell.

Are you trying anything new and scary this year? Please share in the comments.

6 thoughts on “If At First You Don’t Succeed

  1. Kenny

    This is very true & thanks for sharing.

    This is my first year setting out to do freelance work, which is what brought me to this blog in the first place 🙂 I think it’s true that when doing something new, you can find 100 reasons not to do it. If I’m honest, most of them are fear-based. That’s why it’s important to set aside the fear in order to accurately assess your own dreams & the practical reality. Maybe then the rut would stop!

    1. Alisa Bonsignore

      Welcome to the freelance club, Kenny! We’re a friendly bunch. Come meet us all in Chicago in June.

      I think that ruts are equal parts fear and habit. Sometimes I don’t even give any thought to being in a rut until something jolts me out of it. But I’m also trying to make more of a conscious effort to vary things up a bit. It can’t hurt!

  2. Dyana Valentine

    ohhhh, yeah, Alisa! I’m a BIG fan of the classic JackBlackBellyFlop. I have learned my best lessons and made really good life-defining decisions after a really big screw up. My friend, Danielle LaPorte: http://whitehottruth.com/ sez, “be careful what you are good at, or you may end up doing it your whole life.” I will fight for the idea that our real treasures lie in what we’ve at least attempted (or maybe the attempt itself), whether we’re good at it (at the first paddle) or not.

    1. Alisa Bonsignore

      The old saying, “laugh and the world laughs with you” never seemed more appropriate than it did when I was watching this guy. Of course, the flip side of that is “act mortified and the world laughs at you.” Make sure you’re getting the right kind of laughter!

  3. Daniel

    I am in the same boat with Kenny.
    This is my first year as a freelancer, I started the company last year but this year I am trying to get it going! So this whole freelance thing is kind of new for me, a little out of my comfort zone.

    I am trying to get my feet wet, going to forums and blogs reading, learning, trying to get the pulse of the freelance community!

    1. Alisa Bonsignore

      I think you’ve come to the right place, Daniel. I’ve never found a group of people more open or willing to share their experiences — good or bad — with others. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, particularly within the LinkedIn group. We’re all happy to answer!