Sunday, September 20, 2015

Always a Novice

I’ve written of the memory jar, filled with memories, that I gave my mother years ago.  It was a ceramic jar with the title "Memories" inscribed on its side. Among the keepsakes that I got from my parents' home after their passing were the gifts I had given them over the years.  Fortunately I gave them things that I rather liked.  Now they are imbued with the essence of my parents.

One of the things I came back with was another ceramic jar, a gift I had given my father.  It is titled "Brilliant Ideas".  My father was rather known for brilliant ideas so it seemed an appropriate and complementary gift.  I now eye it thinking about what brilliant ideas I will fill it with.

Years ago in my first job I used to keep an idea file.  At the time I was starting a nonprofit that was a new concept.  It actually became a model program because novice that I was, I didn’t know my own limitations yet.  There is something rather freeing about not knowing what you can’t do.   In those days when I had an idea I would write it down.  Then I would write what resources I needed to make it happen and the people I needed to engage.  When I had fleshed it out as best I could, I put it in the file.  I seldom opened the file and when I did I was always amazed at how I had forgotten about the ideas I had dropped within it.  Many of them I had implemented.  There was something rather magical about thinking it though and filing it away that somehow translated into action.

I think perhaps I should use the jar much like I used that early file, to give ideas life.  I have found that I am good at coming up with ideas and reasonably good at implementing them, yet I still hit impasses that I founder upon. They are not for lack of ideas. I have no shortage of those.   Rather they occur because I now know my limitations and need to learn how to move past them.  Usually they are a lack of knowledge about a new pursuit or uncertainty about how to begin in a new direction.  Sometimes they require me to reach beyond myself, to connect with new people and propose my idea to them.  I need to be persuasive about something that exists only as an idea.  To be persuasive we need to believe in our idea enough to be convincing that not only is it a good idea, but we can execute it successfully.  The more successes I have, the better I get at that, but there is always that novice within me who hesitantly drags her feet like a recalcitrant child.  She whines about her uncertainty and secretly wishes someone would take her by the hand and show her how to do it.  I suspect I’m not alone in that. Most of us keep that novice pretty well hidden leaving others to think that they are alone in their feelings of ineptitude.

I gave a talk this week about the Identity and Legacy Project, a rather involved interview and art creation project that I embarked on despite my inner novice.  I convinced sponsors, got grants, did interviews, learned video editing - all sorts of new endeavors of which I knew little.  When I spoke about it I shared my sense of being overwhelmed and intimidated as I took them through my process. I realized it took a certain confidence to share that.  Of course by now I had figured out a path through those uncertainties.  I let my novice speak and found that people responded with interest because we all can identify with those feelings.  So often we talk of our successes, but seldom the struggles.  Often those struggles are within ourselves as we embark on a new path without the expertise we imagine it requires, expertise that we assume others possess along with that poise and confidence we so envy.

If we live our lives with curiosity we are novices over and over again, always learning new things. It is only people who do the same old, same old that don’t experience both the fear and adrenaline rush that comes from facing something new. And if we succeed we are left with a deep sense of accomplishment and mastery.   

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