How I Learned to Learn New Things

That is a super cheesy way to start a post—I’m acknowledging that—but trust me other things I just titled it were cheesier.

Here’s what I’m trying to say: I’ve been going through an interesting period, where I’ve been attempting to do a whole bunch of career-related  things that are out of my comfort zone  (including, by the way, sending out weekly newsletters).

Now, I have a history, as we all do to some degree, of trying things out of my comfort zone and I have a particular way I do that:

I try, get  frustrated, beat  myself up for not knowing how to do this thing I should in no way already know how to do, either proceed  or not proceed  but definitely take plenty of time  to delve into self-recrimination.

Here’s what’s been happening  lately:

I’ve approached what I’m doing as a learning process. I didn’t intend to do this. The truth is, I met this psychic (Katie Hawkins—faithful listeners will remember her from several Issues episodes and I highly recommend  checking  her out,  as  she does readings over the phone). Anyway I’m not even into psychics but I found myself in Ojai one weekend and when I asked a friend who went to Ojai a lot what I should do, she texted back simply “Rev Katie.”  Katie works out of this bizarre, cool little store across the street from the Byron Katie Institute (no relation) and when I went to her that time, I left feeling more positive about my life than I had in months.

She told me I was going to enter a period of amazing luck.

Snort if you want—well, of course a psychic would tell you that, that’s what you’re paying them for!—but I believed her, despite the fact that I felt supremely unlucky at the time. She told me crazy, random things were going to happen that would feel incredibly coincidental—someone would call with the answer to a question  at just the moment I realized I had the question, opportunities were going to pop up everywhere. I didn’t buy it, of course—I was going through a break up and feeling uninspired in my career and all the typical 21st century things we call crises—but a month or so later, something shifted. I started to feel better. It was like when I had a bulging disk in my L4 (for those of you who don’t speak back problems, that’s lower back and it’s painful) and painkillers and cortisone shots and steroids weren’t helping and I had an epidural scheduled but then one day, after months of pain, I woke up and my back felt slightly better. I decided to cancel the epidural and the talks of surgery I’d been having with my doctor. I moved around more. Two weeks later, I started physical therapy. Three months later my back felt fine and now, three years  later (knock on wood), I’m pretty much pain free.

God damn it, I am getting side tracked. My point is this: I started to feel a little like things were going my way. And I latched onto that and told myself it was true. And then it started to happen: the call at just the right time, the opportunity out of nowhere. Rev Katie was right! I was in the promised  manifesting period!

But then I realized something: I wasn’t experiencing success after success after success. I was getting rejected as much as I was getting exciting new opportunities. It was my interpretation of what I was experiencing that was different.

I had essentially accepted the fact  that I’m pretty ignorant about how to make  these new things I’m trying—the new podcast, the online writing class I’m developing, the webinars I’m planning to host, the new talks and seminars I want to give—successful. As a result, I am giving myself permission to learn—to make mistakes, to spend money and time on putting together an ebook only to realize it’s not the ebook I want to put out, to watch an entire week pass by as I try to figure out the technical aspect of hosting an online class. I’m giving myself permission to fail and get frustrated  by reminding myself that  I didn’t go to graduate school so this is my graduate school and so no matter how much time and money I may be spending on all this, it’s far less time and money than I would be spending on grad school. When, say,  the class module I loaded onto YouTube and then posted in my Amazon S3 account so that I could create a certain lesson for the class doesn’t save correctly even though it should have, my first instinct is to cry and my second is to hire someone to help me. Instead, I’ve been reminding myself how happy I am going to be down the line that I know every aspect of how to create online classes because I wrestled with every aspect of it. You don’t get to hire someone to do it for you when your grad school paper is too hard to write if you want to actually get anything out of the experience.

I only consciously realized I was taking this new approach last week, when I went to lunch with a friend who sells advertising for podcasts. I asked him if he’d want to sell ads for mine and he said no, not yet, my show wasn’t big enough. I left the lunch feeling great—this guy sells ads for some of the biggest podcasts out there and so through our conversation, I gleaned so much. As I got in my car, I wondered where I had gone—I’m the person who feels rejected when she’s not even being rejected and here I’d technically been rejected and I felt great. And that’s when I realized that it was in  giving myself permission to learn and fail and get frustrated and get rejected that  I finally had  enough humility to take in what I’m trying to learn.

I’ve been wanting to learn new things my whole life. It’s only now, halfway through, that I’ve figured out how.

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