Written by Scott Dinsmore – Follow me on Twitter.

The Importance of Being a Beginner

“All glory comes from daring to begin.”

~ Eugene F. Ware

Last week I took a Hip Hop class and a surfing lesson. It was my first ever of the former and had been years since the latter. I felt about as coordinated as a monkey in boxing gloves, trying to peel a banana.

It was awkward. It was humbling. It was brilliant.

I was a beginner and I loved it.

The world needs more beginners. It’s time to take action!

When was the last time you did something for the very first time? For most of us, it’s not often enough.

Why is it that the world seems to avoid new things at all cost? When given the choice between doing what we’ve done before and trying something for the first time, we default to what’s comfortable. But where’s the fun in that? If you don’t try, you’ll never know. I propose we put an end to it, and we all commit to being new at something. With 2011 upon us, the timing’s perfect.

It’s ok to not be the best at something.

In fact there’s huge power in being a beginner. Here are a few:

  • Keeps you humble
  • Gets you out of your comfort zone
  • Removes expectation or comparison
  • Connects you with people on a new level – gives a window into their world
  • Gives you a chance to find something that lights your heart on fire

Why are we so scared to be beginners?

We all have the things we’re good at. Either we’ve done them for years or they come naturally. We tend to spend the majority of our time on these. In most instances this is a fine thing.

But what happens when you get relatively good at a job you hate? It’s easy. You’re comfortable. And as a result you never take the plunge to experience the real juice of life.

This fear of being new can keep us from the richest aspects of living. It can keep us from our soulmate as we stay in our comfortable relationship, it can keep us pounding the keyboard when we have an idea that the world needs built, and it can keep us on the couch when our bodies capable of running across town.

It’s ok to be a beginner –  but be sure to leverage your Superpowers.

Realize that your current natural skills and talents (which I like to call Superpowers, as mentioned in The Beginner’s Guide to Being Congruent) are transferrable in more ways than you think. Maybe you stay in your sales job because you’re great at building rapport, relating to people’s needs and closing deals, but you happen to be selling snake oil and you hate it. Then get out and be a beginner with a new product. Or even better, create your own product and apply your natural magic.

A new activity doesn’t need to require new skills.

I was recently working with a reader who was starting to realize she was losing her passion as a school teacher. She loved the teaching but hated the beauracracy and BS that came with it. This made her feel guilty.

Then we started to brainstorm. She had the biggest part figured out. She was a kick-ass teacher and there was nothing more exciting to her than educating. To know this in your mid twenties is huge – we should all be so lucky.

This was a killer start. Then we began to think through where else these Superpowers could be useful. The ideas began to flow – There’s for profit education, private tutoring, corporate training. The list goes on. Maybe she’d rather start up her own advanced tutoring business. Talk about a low risk endeavor and she already had the assets to be a rockstar at it.

Who knows what she’ll decide. The point is you can be new at a role, career, job, sport or hobby but be an expert at the underlying skills required to experience success.

Focus on your Strengths – just find a new application.

I am the last one to suggest you spend all your time working on your weaknesses. Weakness are important to improve only to the point where they allow you to function in society. Past that, all one’s energy related to improvement and education should be dedicated to further mastering your natural Superpowers. Tom Rath will pound you over the head with this in his Strengths Finder 2.0–a required read for anyone truly in search of freedom.

Being a beginner doesn’t mean you don’t focus on your strengths. It’s simply a new application of your core.

Embrace being a Beginner – Just like when Steve Jobs was fired.

Steve jobs, in his 2005 Stanford Commencement Speech recalls one of the most character-building experiences of his life. It was the mid 80’s and he was fired from Apple Computer – yes, the company he started in 1976. After the drama, he had no choice but to be a beginner.

Surprisingly, Jobs recalls it as an unbelievably refreshing and inspiring life chapter – To have no expectations and just to go forward and create. He went on to build two more business successes in Pixar and NeXT (which eventually sold for $7.4b and $429m respectively). NeXT was later bought by Apple at which point he returned as CEO.

Spend 15 minutes with his speech. Whether you’ve seen it or not, it’s worth another watch. I keep it on my iPhone and watch it monthly (a little ironic, I know).

Dreams start at the beginning.

Every dream that saw a glimpse of daylight, before anything else, had to begin. The start is never glamorous. You’ll fumble, you’ll be ridiculed, you’ll doubt yourself, you’ll try to rationalize why you should put it off. That’s why most dreams stay dreams. The fear of beginning is too great.

This first step is the most important step of even the most epic journeys and experiences. Without it, not a damn thing will happen.

But once you start, amazing things begin to occur. The first step feels like trudging through partially dried cement, but the next feels a little lighter and after a few strides you feel like you’re sprinting barefoot down the beach. Momentum is a powerful (and nearly unstoppable) thing. But something must first be moving to harness it.

I’ve experience this in everything I’ve started and stuck with, from barefoot ultramarathons, to my investment partnership, this website back when my mom was the only subscriber, my Personal Freedom Coaching and my 5 years of long distance that finally lead to marrying the love of my life.

Every new beginning reminds me why it is so crucial to keep trying.

If you had dreams of doing great things, or doing anything at all, you better get comfortable with being a beginner. As an entrepreneur I’ve embraced it. I’ve learned to thrive off of the uncertainty.

There’s one thing that’s certain: If you never try anything, you’ll never experience greatness.

It’s not a coincidence that this comes right as we’re about to kick off a new year. There’s no better time to channel massive momentum. Now is all of our time to be a beginner. It always is.

I like to pick at least a few things each year to give a crack at. I usually stick to ones related to my businesses or physical and mental growth activities.

A few things I plan to be new to next year (stay tuned for a full list in a few weeks):

  • Surfing
  • Simplifying
  • Triathlons
  • Creating a knock-out course/guide to help my readers live on their terms

How to be a beginner in 2011. An uber-simple process.

1. Know your Superpowers. Think of what you’re freakin awesome at. What skills allow that? What do you love to do naturally? Public speaking, crunching numbers, counseling others, doing deals, making friends, writing a million lines of code? Strengths Finder 2.0 is a killer shortcut for this.

2. Pick your focus. What have you always wanted to start? Ideally pick something you believe will add fulfillment and enjoyment to life (is there any other reason to do something anyway?). A side business, a new career or a new relationship. It should truly move the needle. And for fun also choose something totally off the wall (hip hop 101 anyone?).

3. Create a bunch of tiny steps. Chunk your new focus down into really basic and manageable tasks. This makes getting things underway a lot less stressful. If you want to start a new career then the first little step may be making a list of 5 people you can talk to in your new space. Then set up meetings with them. And so on. If it seems easy, we’ll start, if it seems too hard, we won’t.

4. Begin! This is the hardest part, but all it takes is two seconds to say “that’s it”, “never again” or “let’s begin”. Those words, spoken with enough meaning and emotion, can change your world. Take the two seconds, and then another five minutes to complete your first task. You’ll never experience the magic if you don’t start.

5. Let the momentum rip. It quickly becomes unstoppable.

There is no waiting.

What you do today turns into how you spend your life. Do you want to spend today putting off what you know will ignite a bonfire of passion? If you forgo the new and exciting today, that will likely be the story of your life.

Do you know the most dangerous word in the world? Later. It’s a euphemism for never. Get over the fear of not knowing how to do something or failing or being new. That’s all going to happen anyway. Might as well charge it head on. Without those ‘risks’, magnificent things can’t happen.

The beginnning is where it starts. So naturally, I’ll see you there.

What new path have you been putting off? What will you vow to be a beginner at in the new year? Tell us in comments because that’s what creates accountability.

And please take 2 seconds to share this on Twitter or Facebook. The world needs more beginners!

Photo courtesy of saipal

Leave a Reply

46 Responses to “The Importance of Being a Beginner (and Leveraging Superpowers)”

  1. Dara says:


    So true! Thanks for writing about this. Keeping a beginner’s mindset changes everything, and not only with new pursuits, but with old ones too! We tend to get really comfortable inside the cushioned walls of familiarity. How enriching it is to approach our daily routines with the intention of experiencing them like we did the first time. Priceless. Happy New Year!!!


    • Scott says:

      Right on Dara! I didn’t even cover the effect it can have on existing pursuits. So glad you brought that up. Being a beginner is refreshing in so many ways it’s unreal. Even the slightest change in perspective makes a world of difference. It’s one of my favorite things about the new year. All kinds of new things to try!

      Here’s a big New Year to come…

  2. Joe Wilner says:


    Ignorance can really be bliss when it comes to being bold and outgoing. There have been times when I felt very enthusiastic about an idea and was ready to get started and take action, until I did research and started to learn the incredibly complex intricacies of the project. The more I uncovered the more unrealistic it seemed and less motivated I became. For me, the beginner mentality helps me to take action and not become obsessed with all the overwhelming practical matters. Thanks for sharing!

    • Scott says:

      Excellent point Joe. I’ve been in that space before. Actually that’s probably the case with anything I’ve dug into. At first it seemed relatively simple so I dove in head first but now looking back on the projects two years later (which Im still working on), I’m glad I didn’t know what was involved from the onset… I likely wouldn’t have started!

  3. Dominic says:

    Great article Scott!

    I agree that all dreams start small and if they are to be materialized, then they have to be exercised and developed, and not remain at the back of our heads as mere conceptual ideas.

    And yes, I also agree that instead of compensating and covering-up our weaknesses (assuming that these limitations of ours are not hindering us in living our best), we should be bold and brazen to leverage and harness the potency of our strengths. In doing so, somehow or rather, our weaknesses don’t seem to be such a big deal after all.

    • Scott says:

      Definitely Dominic. Forget about those weaknesses. We all have them. I have a ton but luckily my business partner has all the opposite ones. Makes for a kick ass fit! Strengths Finder 2.0 is perfect for assessing this because it not only gives you your top 5 strengths but also the top 5 strengths you should look for in business partners and others, so they compliment your own. Powerful stuff.

      Focus on your strengths and outsource the rest!

  4. Cris says:

    Thank you for writing about this. Beginnings are important, crucial to achieving anything, really. I’m reminded about a quote that said something like ‘Take a step and you are on a path’ and it is that first step that then creates momentum for the next. All fear, all anticipation, sort of appears to squeeze inbetween the moment of decision and that first step, which is why those thoughts delay the action.

    To all then, merry beginnings :)

  5. Mani Masuria says:


    You did it again, you touch my life whenever I am in need of advice or a hint. Your article really resonates with me, you seem to have the answers, especially on this period where everyone is starting a fresh.

    Thanks buddy, you have managed to inspire me once again


    • Scott says:

      That’s certainly flattering to hear Mani, and believe it or not, it is you and the others who are joining in on this adventure, that inspire me to keep writing and doing all I can to help us all find our path.


  6. Chelsea says:

    Thanks for writing Scott. I found myself in a situation today where being a beginner allowed me to connect more with another person. I teach yoga and I too recently took a surf lesson for the first time. A student came up to me after class to ask a few questions and what do you know, we ended up talking about surfing as much as about yoga. That would have never happened if I hadn’t given something new a shot!

  7. Marci says:

    “Dreams start with a glimmer of daylight.” Like this! What an inspiring post and positive spin on being a beginner. I love beginning and learning, yet I have been putting off fully offering coaching in addition to my counseling practice for far too long. My practice always gets busy or I have a baby, but now’s the time to use my “superpowers.” I love coaching others to reach their dreams, goals, however big or small!

    • Agreed Marci. For me there is nothing more rewarding than coaching people to get a crack at their full potential. I consistently use a coach and have absolutely loved providing that to others with a fire in their belly. I definitely plan to dedicate more time to my coaching clients in 2011.

      Have fun with it this year!

  8. Great article Scott! Thanks for all the inspiration in 2010, you motivated me to get off my butt and take a leap of faith, so I started my own BLOG this year, http://www.remoteworkerdaily.com

    I’ll be looking forward to following Reading For Your Success in 2011, have a Happy new Year!

    • Hats off to your new creation Doug! It looks sharp. I like the simplicity of the site. You might want to think about adding your headshot on the about page or homepage to get that personal connection. I always love to see that.

      And I’m more than flattered to see my site listed among the likes of Tim Ferriss and Leo Babauta on your Favorite Blogs section. I cannot think of better company to keep. I was actually hitting a Crossfit workout with Leo in SF this morning. Big start to the year!

      Super excited for your progress Doug. You have by far done the most difficult step–getting started. Now let the momentum take 2011 by storm. I’m here to help in any way I can.


  9. Christopher says:

    Beginning things makes us vulnerable. Guess that’s good for our egos Scott, isn’t it? I particularly like how you choose something ridiculous like hip-hop! I’m thinking about taking some different dancing classes, salsa, ballroom, flamenco, whatever. Thanks for the inspiration.

    • Scott says:

      Right on Chris. ‘Being Vulnerable’ is a big focus of mine for 2011. I just watched an awesome TED Talk on it. I plan to write up an article in the next couple weeks.

      Enjoy the dance!

  10. Just found your blog and it sure is timely. Today is day 2 of my going for something very new, I’m protesting and started a blog to share my journey and protest with others. I certainly feel the excitement and discomfort of being a beginner. Thanks for the encouragement and inspiration to continue to be so.

    And I wish I could have taken your hip hop class with you. While I am a dancer (ballet), hip hop scares the mess out of me. A good reason to do it (I mean it’s not life threatening or anything)…

    • Scott says:

      I have a pretty good feeling you would have looked a tad more graceful in that class than I did… Maybe next time!

      So glad you stumbled on the site and even more stoked that you’re starting your own blog. That’s music to my ears. I am here to help any way I can. There are some powerful resources in “Product’s I Love” at the top of my site if you’re looking for any deep blog guidance.

      By far the most important thing is just that you start. You already have that taken care of!

      Very sweet simple site by the way. I love the protest idea.

      Nicely Done.

  11. Jon Giganti says:


    Great stuff, as always. It’s amazing what the rewards are when you’re afraid to jump in, then do it, and realize how great you feel about what you’ve done (regardless of the proficiency). I started doing Crossfit last year and was scared to death after my first couple of workouts. After forcing myself to go for a couple weeks, I became addicted and it’s such a big part of my life and health (both mental and physical). I love your advice on creating a bunch of tiny steps as well. My high school English teach use to preach “Divide and Conquer” when reading or writing and things get overwhelming when you only look all that has to happen. If you break it down and focus on accomplishing that next step, you’re ahead of the game. Looking forward to watching Jobs speech.

    Thanks again for the great material.


    • Scott says:

      My pleasure Jon. I love to hear that you’re deep into Crossfit. We certainly share that love in common. I’ve been at it for the past couple years but just last week decided to take an xfit Basics course to really get the technique sorted out. Such a kick ass workout.

      Loving “Divide and Conquer” by the way!

  12. Duncan says:

    I really resonate with this post. I’m just diving into new and scary things all the time these days and the progress in my life would be unbelievable to my past self.

    Thanks for posting this.

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