Doing Something I’ve Never Done

“I’ve never done this before.”

“I’ve never used this software.”

“I don’t know…can you show me?”

Well-worn watchwords out the mouth of this 20-something, for sure. They sound professional, not self-assuming, but deep below these words lies feeling of inadequacy.

Self-doubt.

Feigned self-assurance.

FEAR.

We’re all young or were young once. Faced with the time-crunching reality of launching into a career where it feels like immediate success is requried, combined with intense skills development, continuing education, debt, debt and more debt, personal and professional pressure… Add a pandemic to that, and any possibly way to make these terrible 20s better, is a godsend.

The problem is this: a common pattern associated to all school skills I learned. You’re taught about a program or a skill, you use it, you practice it, you do a couple of productive things, and you scale your knowledge over a long period of time. There is no demand to immediately learn, no requisite to progression.

Then along comes ones first foray into the job market post-education, and we’re greeted by an onslaught of seemingly ever-increasing and impossible to meet demands. 10+ years of project management experience. 15+ year social media experience. And every program ever written. Python. Oracle. Javascript. SQL. Mailchimp. Basecamp. Wix. Can you speak Japanese? Spanish? Both at the same time? The list is endless, covering every sector, every niche, and it feels like you have to learn the entire world…right…darn…NOW! It’s not wrong. It just is.

I’ve been surrounded by hundreds of mentors, colleagues and friends, and learned thousands of important lessons, but none have been as important as learning how to do something you’ve never done before. You can’t possibly be taught the world by someone else – you have to do some of the heavy lifting yourself.

Two major steps come to mind:

First – just start. The number of times I’ve not downloaded a program/tried to write a code/had the idea to start an article, and then not done it, will take a long, long time to catch up on. Effort and experimentation work like compound interest- the longer you wait to just try, the longer you have to wait to get to where you want.

Second – never be afraid to fail. Your first code, will likely render an error. Your first website, might have free ads. Your first meeting, might involve screen-sharing the wrong tab (and we all know where that leads). Just get it done. Write a Python script to print, “Hello world” – and celebrate it! Just because your skill might not have reached the level of employability yet, they’re on their way, and with a bit of persistence and time management, they’ll be there in no time! The journey is always worth it – you might have a few funny stories to share in a LinkedIn article of your own!

Overcoming the urge to try and learn and do ourselves is so difficult when for some much of our lives we’ve dependent on others to “show the way”. But it’s plausible, and increasingly often, a fruitful necessity.