When we are young, we accept the fact that we need to learn stuff. We don’t know what an adjective is, so we learn. We don’t know who killed Abraham Lincoln, so we learn. We don’t know what trigonometry is…okay so maybe we never quite figure that one out.
My point is, throughout a good chunk of our lives, we don’t question our ability to learn. We need to know something, so we cram, hit the books and pull an all-nighter.
But at some point we start to doubt our ability to learn something new. We may not recognize it as such, but it happens. Maybe we think we already know everything or maybe (and more likely), we are too timid to admit that after all these years, we still need to learn stuff.
That’s the darn thing about learning, our need for it never stops.
A big part of doing something new is starting from square one. We rarely jump into a new hobby or profession without beginning at, well, the beginning. Not having all the answers can cause self-doubt.
How do we get over this self-doubt?
Billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman has a suggestion. He says we need to gain confidence in ourselves as a learner. Hoffman says we need to realize that everyone is capable of learning (we’ve been doing it our whole lives, after all). And once we have the confidence in ability to learn, we should just always be learning.
There is nothing wrong with spotting self-doubt at square one. If it was your first day working for the circus, you wouldn’t expect to be able to teach a tiger how to juggle (do they have that at the circus? It has been awhile since I have gone). No, you would probably start by sweeping up elephant poop while you worked on your skills as a feline juggling coach. Where self-doubt becomes crippling is when we think we will never have what it takes to teach the tiger to juggle.
If we are doing something we believe in, Hoffman says we need to tell ourselves, I am genuinely committed to do it and I am going to learn as I am doing it.
That wasn’t a problem when we were young, and with a little confidence in our ability to learn, it shouldn’t be a problem now.