Learning Should Be Messy

Two hands of a child smearing paint

Learning should be messy. You should feel awkward. Like you don’t know precisely if you are doing it right.

That’s where the discovery magic occurs, in the trying. You may not get it right the first time. But that’s ok because you are still a million miles ahead of every rube out there that never even starts.

Next week my son Jack starts his freshman year in college. Forty years ago, that was me, beginning my first year of college at Florida State University. Right now, reaching out for comparison seems easy.

Jack will make his own series of monumental victories and colossal mistakes. That’s what life is about. Learning.

Sometimes You Feel Like You Don’t Fit In

I started FSU as a wide-eyed 18-year-old. Just like Jack. College seemed so HUGE. It was exciting, and I was full of hopeful expectations for myself. I wanted to make new friends and fit in.

One of the biggest and most impactful things I learned was during that freshman year with the simple phrase, “Your best friend is only a handshake away.”

Even four decades later, I still extend my hand in friendship. Sometimes I don’t fit in, especially at an event where everyone is a stranger.

A smile and a small talk comment can get you started. That’s all you need.

Am I Doing This Correctly?

That awkwardness of being unsure of yourself and doing things anyway is where you need to be.

I’m still doing this.

At one point in my life, I knew nothing about the t-shirt industry. Writing articles for magazines and companies seemed like an impossible feat.

Pitching a show on YouTube? Please… Who would watch that?

Starting a podcast? What are we going to talk about? Who would listen?

Flying to different cities to give presentations at trade shows or help companies unravel their challenges seemed laughable.

Your Life Only Makes Sense Looking Backward

For Jack, the journey he is about to embark on might seem like being launched into outer space. Who knows where he will wind up or what he will accomplish?

I certainly was clueless at 18. And you could argue at 58; I’m still that way about many things. I don’t profess to know everything. I’m not the best. I make mistakes, believe me.

But I’m willing to put myself out there and really suck at something. Because I know that is where growth starts.

My Wish

So here’s my wish for Jack (and you too!). I hope he gets comfortable with being uncomfortable. Just jump in with eyes wide open and try new things.

Mastery starts with taking that first awkward step and trying to learn something new. You just have to be willing.

“I am always ready to learn, although I do not always like to be taught.” – Winston Churchill

“You don’t learn by following the rules. You learn by doing and falling over.” – Richard Branson

“I am always learning what I cannot do in order to learn how to do it.” – Pablo Picasso

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Marshall Atkinson also shares exclusive blog content at Supacolor.com. Supacolor makes The World’s Best Heat Transfer and provides tips, inspiration, and other resources designed to empower professional garment printers.

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