What do skills and chicken have in common? The third letter in both words is an i!
Just kidding :)
They might have something else in common. Let me explain.
If you’re a regular reader of my blog, congratulations are in order because you’re part of an exclusive group of about 5 right now ;) But, it also means you know that I’m learning to surf and that I’m not exactly a natural at it (in case you missed it, here is my latest blog post about it).
I’m a constant learner. At any given point, I have at least one topic or activity I’m learning about. Right now, it’s money and investing (more interesting than I thought it would be), business strategy (important for my work) and of course surfing. For me, learning and personal growth are really important personal values – I’m happier and more content when I feel like I’m making progress and gaining new insights. However, it doesn’t mean learning new things always comes easy for me.
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about what does come easy and what doesn’t. I often say that I’m good at anything you can solve with your head and not so good at anything that requires some form of body coordination skills. And, truth is, pretty much everyone who knows me would agree with that (especially those people who had front-row seats to watching me learning to kitesurf).
I used to just accept that. I’m not athletic. So what! I’ve got other skills.
But lately I’ve been thinking about skills more in the context of confidence. It’s no surprise that I’m more confident about the things I’m good at and lack confidence about things I’m not good at. But is that actually right? Or is it the other way around? Am I good at things because I’m confident and not good at things because I lack confidence?
Wondering what chicken have to do with any of this? Don’t worry, I’m getting there right now.
The more I think about it, the more I realise that skill and confidence are a lot like chicken and eggs – No one really knows what came first.
Yes, think about that for a second. Blows your mind, right? ;)
What if we are good at certain things because something gave us confidence early in our life – not because we’re talented? In fact, that something might have nothing to do with our actual skills and talents. Maybe it was something our parents were doing so we just automatically assumed it’s easy and normal to be good at it. Maybe it was just that we got lucky the first time we tried something new. Or maybe someone told us we’re really good at it to be nice (not because we actually were).
Let me give you an example. When I was a kid in primary school, I really struggled with spelling (in the ‘she’s dyslexic’ kind of way) but my teachers often told me that I’m good a writing stories. As a result, I grew up believing I’m good at writing. But what if the main reason teachers told me I’m a good writer is because they were looking for something positive to say considering my obvious issues with spelling? What if my writing wasn’t actually that good, it just looked good compare to my spelling?
I let you be the judge of how good my writing skills actually are. But fact is, I write a lot for work, I’ve written articles that have been published locally and internationally and people often comment positively about my writing style (without me asking for it or holding a gun to their head). So, I do believe I’m a good writer today. But maybe the main reason is because I developed confidence in my writing skills very early in my life – rather than actually just being a natural at it. And maybe if no one had ever told me I’m good at writing stories when I was a kid, I wouldn’t be a good writer today.
And my lack of athletic ability might just be the opposite example. I was an overweight kid so society automatically but me in the ‘lazy’ and ‘not good at sports’ basket. And my family wasn’t exactly a sporty bunch either so it just wasn’t something I grew up with. So maybe the reason I was never good at sport is because no one and nothing ever gave me confidence.
Today, I am what most people would consider ‘sporty’ in the sense that I do a lot (kitesurfing, paddle boarding, surfing, cycling, …). The thing is, even though I do all these activities, I don’t believe I’m any good at any of them - I don’t have any confidence! Which is probably why I set a new record for the slowest person to ever learn kitesurfing, why I struggle so much with surfing and why I still struggle to run 3km. I’m fit, I’m healthy, I’m active, there really is no physical reason why I shouldn’t be good at any of these activities.
So maybe the problem isn’t that I lack skills or talent but that I lack the confidence.
What if we could be good at just about anything if we would just truly believe we are? What if confidence is way more important than talent and skill?
When you think about it, it really does have the power to change the way you look at life. This blog is all about exploring life and figuring out what I want to do with mine. When I look back over the past few years, I realise how much I’ve gravitated towards the things I’m good at - or maybe more accurately, the things I’m confident about. I think a lot of people tend to do that.
But if what we’re good at is what we’re confident about and there is a good chance that confidence is the result of coincidence and little things that happened in our childhood (not necessarily actual talent). Maybe we give our current internal views of what we’re good at way too much power over our lives.
Imagine we could actually free ourselves from these internal believes and approach new experiences without any pre-set view on whether we will be good at it or not. It would open-up a whole new world and we might find that our actual talents and skills are very different to what we thought they are.
Now, I don’t think it’s easy to get ourselves into that kind of mindset. But I also think just being aware of the relationship between confidence and skill and understanding that skills and confidence are a lot like chicken and eggs in the sense that we don’t really know what came first, can change the way we approach new experiences.
For me that means that I have to stop telling myself I have no talent for surfing and start believing that I can do just about anything I want to!
cover Image: Janet Zeh