If you want to improve, be content to be thought foolish and stupid. – Epictetus
What does that mean?
I like this quote, because I have lived it so many times. While we can learn a lot from books, the internet, and friends, that kind of learning lacks one thing: action.
You can read a hundred books on chess, but you will still look foolish and stupid for your first couple of games. Same goes for any sort of sport or physical activity.
What about intellectual pursuits? Ever try to talk about something about which you only have book knowledge? Especially if someone there knows about the subject, you can look pretty foolish and stupid.
The first steps in any new endeavor tend to be a little awkward. You will look a little foolish and even somewhat stupid. But the alternative is to never learn. I know which path I will choose, what about you?
Why is action important?
Action is where you gain actual experience. Action is how you rub off the parts which cause you to look foolish or stupid. There are always the awkward moments when doing something new or unfamiliar. It’s part of the learning process. If you don’t do it, you won’t really have learned much.
Without the action, the learning is never complete. All you have at that point is ‘book learning’ and no practical experience. If you’ve ever had a chance to see a new person working with some experienced people, you have probably seen some good-natured laughter as the new person gets experience.
And that is what this quote is about. When trying something new, there will be some interesting experiences awaiting you. Without them, it will be very difficult to actually get good at anything, much less improve your skill. Where are you reluctant to improve?
Where can I apply this in my life?
We all have stories about looking foolish or stupid on a first attempt. When I started this blog, I really had no idea what I was doing. I knew that I wanted to take short, twitter sized quotes and consider how the wisdom they contained might be applied in the modern world.
The first month I had a grand total of less than 200 views, and most of those were friends and family members. And the efforts weren’t all that great. I have since gone back and updated a few of them, added pictures and done better formatting. But wait, there’s more.
I had been playing chess for a while, but only against one opponent. Then I tried playing against another guy at school, and got hammered by the 4 move mate. Boy did I look foolish and stupid. I’d never seen the move before, so I had no understanding of what was about to happen to me. Now I know.
But if I had never taken the action, I would never have seemed to be foolish or stupid. But I also would never have learned. I haven’t fallen for that trick since them, although I have been beaten so badly that I looked foolish and stupid. But I learned from the experience.
What are your stories of how silly you may have felt, or how foolish and stupid you think it might have seemed to those viewing your attempts? We have all been there. From that experience, some of us learned to practice in secret, so no one would laugh. Others decided not to try at all.
Hopefully you learned a different lesson from the experience, or at least are open to reinterpreting those experiences. I hope you now believe the process includes such things, and that you will simply have to grin and bear it. You are strong enough, really you are.
I also hope you will be more kind to others when they are in that situation and you are watching. Instead of laughing, give them a tip, or even a helping hand. After all, you have been there before, haven’t you? And that wasn’t exactly your favorite memory, is it?
Yes, some people are more concerned about these things than others. Some people have no problem with trying new stuff and thinking nothing of what their attempts may look like to others. I would like to think I’m like that, but I’m not. I still get a little nervous and self conscious.
This is where the quote comes back around. It is one thing to know that you have to do things, and risk looking foolish or stupid, to improve. It can be quite another to actually go out and to it. To actually make the quote work for you, you will need to take action.
On what part of your life will you work on improving today? Not just reading or thinking, but actually putting it into practice? With the experience of action, you can improve. Without it, not so much.
From: Twitter, @CrossFit
confirmed at : http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/epictetus383698.html
Photo by Amy Moss
- A Cool Dude Named Epictetus (theleadersdigest.me)
- Act and be willing to fail and look stupid! (wikart.wordpress.com)
- Foolish. (adriannespage.wordpress.com)
- Foolish (gibberishmaster.wordpress.com)