Kids drawings suck
We’ve all been there. A young child comes running up to you, their little face beaming with pride.
In their hand is a piece of paper covered in multi colored squiggles.
They hand it to you and instinctively you say “Oh wow, isn’t this amazing“.
Of course you have no idea what it’s supposed to be so you hope the child will give you a hint of some sort.
“Oh it’s a horse? Wow and what’s his name?“
Then they run off with their purple disfigured horse, delighted with themselves.
But whether or not the pictures are good doesn't really matter. Each one is an important milestone in the development of that child's creativity and dexterity.
Parents are right to be proud and those pictures should be celebrated, in spite of the fact that they suck.
What I find interesting about it is that the kids don't think their pictures suck.
They're not comparing their work to the work of others, they are just having fun and are proud of the output.
I feel like this is probably one of the most significant differences between children and adults.
What does it all mean?
How often do you sit down and do something you are bad at but enjoy anyway?
How often do you do things for the sake of doing it rather than focusing on the outcome of the time spent doing it.
The older we get the more time we spend comparing ourselves to others. It feels like an unavoidable consequence of being a social animal.
What that does is put us in a weird position when it comes to learning new things.
In order to learn we need to look at others doing the thing we are trying to learn. That makes sense.
However, we aren't looking at beginners. We are watching people that have put in thousands of hours and make the thing look easy, whatever that thing is.
We don’t see the hours those experts put in, we only see the end result - and that messes with our expectations.
We expect to get good and expect to get there quickly, because it looks easy, because we are watching people that make it look easy.
The internet has made this worse in that we are constantly exposed to people doing things that look cool and fun, but that take skill, practice, time, dedication and talent.
Once exposed to this it makes all of our own efforts feel futile.
Most things take a year of investment before we can even begin to get good at them.
What's worse is that your progress isn't guaranteed. Practice doesn't make perfect - it makes permanent, and if your practice sessions are poorly planned and executed then you will struggle to make progress at all.
I've experienced this myself within a few disparate areas:
Playing guitar - I taught myself and I was terrible teacher. I am now spending months trying to undo ten years of bad habits. In that time I could have become an amazing guitarist but I didn't because I was inconsistent and had poor practice habits.
Fitness - I had to undo 20 years of bad habits with this one, ie. Going from unfit & unhealthy to relatively fit and healthy. When I first started I again didn't have a good teacher and as a result suffered constantly from injuries. I have since trained as a PT and started to properly manage my own expectations - everything has improved as a result.
Software engineering - For this one I did get a teacher, in that I went to college. I had a structured learning program but even then I felt lost for the first couple of years. Then it clicked and I started to really enjoy writing code.
Writing - I’ve been writing for years, in some form or another, and still feel like an absolute beginner. This is one of those things that you just have to do and keep doing before it feels in any way natural.
So here's some advice for starting something new:
Get a teacher - a good one
Don't compare yourself or your progress to others
Enjoy the process
Try to channel your inner child - your work will suck when you start, but that doesn't matter as long as you had fun doing it.