There is a time for everything. I’ve written previously about how greatness happens in the shadows, through the thousands of hours spent practicing while nobody is watching. That time is important but it is equally if not more important to preach what you’ve been practicing when the spotlight turns on.
Display your practiced skill to the world at every opportunity, without self-consciousness and without fear. If you value a skill highly enough to spend hours upon hours working on it alone then you should also jump on each chance to put it out into the world. Because it is during these times that the greatest lessons are learned.
Don’t Wait Until You Are Ready
You’ll never be ready. There will always be some excuse lying in wait. Some type of Resistance holding you back from just going for it.
I’ve been studying Spanish this year. I strive to do an audio lesson every day when I’m in a car (in the shadows), then mark a little tic in my book for that day. Alternately I’ll mark my daily practice as complete if I’ve had a short conversation with somebody in Spanish, which is pretty easy to do in Texas. But it takes an extra force of will each time I start one of those conversations, despite them being well received every time. Each time I have to push through the Resistance that whispers I am not good enough, or this is stupid. But each time I’ve done so I learn more than during ten quiet sessions in the car.
Fear of the spotlight is the number one reason that people don’t succeed. And that fear is entirely in your head. The fact of the matter is that:
- People don’t think about you as much as you think they do
- People respect those who push against their current limits
The worst that can happen is mild embarrassment, while the best is a groundbreaking insight or flash of inspiration that will catapult your progress miles beyond your current level. The reward is far greater than the risk.
You’ve Got to Ship
In any endeavor the circle is not complete until you have delivered.
What good is a body of work if it never sees the light of day? What is the point of those thousands of hours sacrificed to the trade if it is never released into the world to stand on its own merit? What if you no longer had to ask “what if”?
Doing the work is only the start. You’ve got to complete the work. And you’ve got to put it out there, under the spotlight of public scrutiny. Only then can you wipe down the chalkboard and start something new, having taken the lessons learned into consideration.
Feedback is wildly important to improvement. It teaches lessons that you can never learn in the shadows and accelerates your progress 10x. It builds confidence and it highlights weakness to be focused on.
Skill Level Be Damned
One final point is that you need to put your work out into the world during every stage of your development. If you wait until you are “good enough” you’ll have waited too long, and missed countless opportunities to speed up your improvement along the way.
The bulk of work will be done in the shadows, but we stay in the shadows too long because of fear. Fear of ridicule and fear of the spotlight. But you’ll find that people are incredibly supportive of those that are willing to stick their necks out, and those that ridicule us are secretly envious of anyone who has a strong commitment to improvement.
No matter the endeavor there is always, always somebody who will be better at it than you. Don’t compare your progress with theirs; emulate or get inspiration from them and apply it to your own learning. Do the hard work every day in the shadows. Then step into the spotlight every chance you can.