DON’T QUIT – Psychological roadblocks when learning a new craft – and how to get past them like a champ

You’re filled with excitement… you feel the butterflies in your stomach… finally you’ve found something that interests you and you have committed yourself to learn a new craft.

Fast forward two weeks, and things are looking very different at this point in time. The excitement and butterflies have faded away; in fact, you’re on the brink of letting go of this new hobby that you vowed to learn completely.

What went wrong? Why does this happen every time you intend to learn something new? Moreover, why is it so common for beginners of any art or craft to give up so quickly, and in such a heartbreaking fashion?

Having taught thousands of students to script the art of Arabic calligraphy, I began to notice a general trend – and though the exact reasoning for wanting to quit varies, a student basically risks falling into 1 of 2 traps (and sometimes both!). The cruel part is that making even one of these mistakes can essentially mean game over. Hey it’s not an easy game! Having said that, by being aware or these pitfalls ahead of time and mitigating them when they arrive will allow you to cruise to your desired end result with less disruptions.

Fortunately for us, both of these roadblocks are psychological and not linked to the actual physical inability to learn the skill.

Myth 1: Learning a new craft requires way too much time. “With my studies, full time job, family, friends, volleyball practice, and Game of Thrones, I just don’t have the time to learn something that is actually meaningful and fulfilling”. If this sounds like you, its possible that you were probably looking for a quick solution; you thought you’d get by with a half-hearted attempt; you thought you’d practice every time you “got a chance”. This is not to say however that learning a new skill should totally possess you and be the only thing in your life – in fact far from it.

But before we even get to how much time is actually required, let’s debunk the “I don’t have time” analogy. Reading “The Magic of Thinking BIG” by David Schwartz really opened my eyes to this super simple concept. How much time do we really have in a week?

24 hours X 7 days = 168 hours

How much time do we spend sleeping? 8 hours should be enough but let’s be generous and say we all sleep 9 hours a night

9 hours X 7 days = 63 hours | 105 hours remain

How much time do we spend at work? Most full time employees spend 40 hours a week but lets just be generous again and say you’re an entrepreneur, doctor, or accountant and work 50 hours a week.

105 hours – 50 hours = 55 hours

Let’s also say we spend 3 hours a day on pure family fun time – which by the way should come before any perceivable hobby.

3 hours X 7 days = 21 hours | 34 hours remain

Finally let’s be super generous here and give our weekly entertainment, including TV shows and movies, candlelight dinners a whopping 20 hours a week (I can’t spend this much time on entertainment on a vacation if I wanted to, let alone in my day to day life).

34 hours – 20 hours = 14 hours

Yes, despite me comically inflating the time required for everything we use as an excuse to do nothing, we still have 14 hours left in a week. That’s 2 spare hours a day we can spend on literally popping bubble wrap – and it would still be considered a productive day.

So, how much time in a week DO we need to learn this new skill? Far less than 14 hours, that’s for sure. The exact number of hours required is quite subjective and really depends on the type of craft you are trying to pick up, but as a general rule of thumb – or at least what held true for the two crafts I ever decided to master in my life – Arabic calligraphy and sleight of hand magic tricks – you should require no more than 30 minutes of practice 3-4 times a week…. at least for the first several weeks. It really isn’t a lot to ask for. I am not suggesting you give up on taking your dose of Seinfeld each evening – in fact the math above proved that we don’t even need to cut down! We just need to stop making lame excuses for our laziness. If still this is something you are not able to accommodate in your life then I must say, this is not for you.

Myth 2: I am physically or mentally (or both) incapable of learning this.  This here could be the most dangerous myth to believe in. Dangerous as it does more than just have you abandon your plans to learn the craft, but dangerous also for attacking your very self esteem, which could obviously hamper your willingness to learn the same craft ever again. The gloomy thoughts you get in this psychological state alone could be life changing to say the least unless you take a hold of the situation.

What kind of feelings are we talking about? The most common statement I am accustomed to hearing would go something like this “Oh, I just don’t have the patience for something like this, I’m just not an artist (because the dude sitting next to me in grade 3 said so); this whole learning a new skill thing is bound to be a huge failure… I will be an absolute disappointment, an embarrassment to my friends and family… People will throw shoes and umbrellas at me, I will undoubtedly be the next Rebecca Black and my artwork will be the next Friday”. Sounds familiar?

These are real fears I have seen in many of my students and it is so important to address them right from the beginning. If not, as mentioned, they will eventually prove detrimental not just to your aspirations to learn the craft but also to your self esteem as a whole.

So how can we debunk this mammoth of a myth?

Firstly, recognize this doubt for what it is, a lowly self dis-empowering thought which brings you absolutely no good… in anyway. Some argue that doubt is actually good at times as it prevents you from making the wrong decisions in life. I beg to differ- indecisiveness is a psychological fungus that paralyzes you from moving in any particular direction in life. Those who doubt themselves and throw down the “playing it safe” card are usually found in the exact same shape and place 10 years down the road… Don’t be that person.

Take the leap, stumble, fall, get up, and learn. Don’t just stand in life like a tree hoping experience, lessons learned, and wisdom will just pollinate your mind. Be like that daredevil fly that despite all obstacles, found its way into a compost bin (a sealed one too).

My suggestion is to have a real conversation with yourself and make a decision up front. If you decide to learn something, then put your mind and body into it until you have accomplished your goal. Have the kind of self belief that would shake mountains and watch how easy the whole process becomes, I have seen it with my very eyes.

It’s clear to me that the majority of these pitfalls are more behavioural rather than the actual skill related. My sincerest advice would be to keep these in the back of your head while learning, wholeheartedly accept them when they turn up as part of the process, mitigate them gracefully, and keep the ultimate end in sight – while enjoying and loving every moment of the learning process. It is a beautiful scenery once you can get rid of all the fog in your head.