Starting a new job is incredibly intimidating. Especially when you have no idea how to do the task you signed up for. Maybe you’re about to start bussing tables and you’ve never worked in a restaurant, or perhaps you’re about to start mowing lawns and you’ve never started a lawn mower. It’s scary to jump into the unknown. But the important thing is to jump in headfirst and be willing to make mistakes.
This week I landed my first job as a martial arts assistant instructor at Project Dojo in Albuquerque, NM. I’ve never so much as stepped foot inside of a martial arts studio--but I was determined to confidently give it my all.
Before my day of work started I knew I was leaving my comfort zone. I know zilch about karate and it would absolutely show throughout the day. I decided instead of letting fear get the better of me, I would open myself up to make mistakes throughout the day.
What does it mean to open yourself up to make mistakes? It means not putting so much pressure on yourself to “get it right” the first time. Nobody expects you to walk into something you’ve never done before and be the best. It’s not human.
Opening yourself up to make mistakes lets you relax. If you’re starting a new job and you’re worried about not messing up, you’re going to mess up and it'll probably ruin your day. But if you know you’re going to mess up and just accept that fact, then your new position won't be as uncomfortable or scary as you thought.
Going out of your comfort zone with a new employer speaks volumes. With no background of martial arts, my Sensei, Travis, threw me out on the mats with kids and asked me to help give them guidance. He would take a moment and teach me how to do a move, and then say, “Now that you know how to do it, go and shape the minds of our youth."
It would have been easy for me to sit in the corner and purely observe. But he challenged me to do otherwise, so I jumped in headfirst. I gave the kids encouragement and guidance when necessary--even though most of them had a roundhouse kick that could have knocked me out.
Several times during the day Travis corrected what I was doing. While the kids were sparring, one of boy's blue belts came loose and fell to the ground. I ran out onto mats, grabbed the belt, and laid it on the floor out of the way so no one could trip over it. I was feeling good about my good deed until Travis walked over to tell me that you never place a belt on the floor. It's symbolic of all you've learned and accomplished in martial arts. Oops.
After I had been an assistant instructor for most of the day, Travis came over to me and asked if I would be willing to go through the last class of the day as a student. I knew there was no way I could hang with most of them. But since I was already so deep into the unknown, I felt confident I could give it a shot. Once you try something new, it gives you confidence to try more and more.
At the end of the day, Travis complimented my ability to jump into the mix. Being able to leave my comfort zone and embrace mistakes allowed me to exceed expectations.
People don't expect you to be the perfect, ideal worker on your first day. You may be slow, get orders wrong, forget your coworkers name, etc. By accepting mistakes before they happen, we give ourselves the confidence to try new things.
Every new job brings new challenges and it’s those who are willing to fall and rise that will succeed. Mistakes are just part of learning how to excel. And in the case you shadow a fourth degree black belt, so is extreme soreness.