Growing vs. Accomplishing

personal growth Apr 05, 2022

Part II of an Interview with Musician, Will Robertson. (Click here for Part 1)


“This sucks.”

“I feel bad.”

“I’m not good at this.”

“I should give up and go home.”


Sound familiar to anyone?

This was the internal monologue of musician Will Robertson, as he was new to softball and fly fishing. I must have the same screenwriter in my head, because I hear these same tired lines when I get out of my comfort zone. I don’t know about you, but the voice I hear can be pretty loud and persistent. I hate feeling inept, and my internal critic makes it even worse.

I asked Will how he handled that voice. He explained, “After many years, I have grown to take the option of quitting off the table. I have chosen to keep showing up, even if it is uncomfortable.”

Will added that having great teachers makes it easier to decide to stay. Then he said something that really spoke to me: “I told myself that what I am doing here is being present in the process of learning and growing.”


Watching Yourself Grow

Being present in the process of learning and growing… what a different experience that is from the feeling of accomplishment we get when checking things off a To Do list or clearing our inboxes. It’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when growth happens so slowly that it is almost imperceptible… and when it is so uncomfortable! 

Good teachers can help us see the process of growth, which helps us to stay motivated and keep showing up, despite the discomfort. Will said he learned a lot about how to be that kind of teacher from his fly fishing guide, Roger.

When Will’s dad booked a father-son fishing trip a few years ago, Will was apprehensive about what looked to be a slimy and wet experience. But Roger made the experience worth it. Like any good teacher, Roger was patient and present. He was able to give Will an overarching framework for approaching fly fishing, then he broke it all down into small steps that Will could master. Roger demonstrated each small motion, gave Will an opportunity to practice, and gave immediate feedback and encouragement.


Having a Beginner's Mindset

The experience reminded Will of what it is like to have a beginner’s mindset, and he applied Roger’s approach to his work with musicians. As a teacher, Will thought back to the voice in his head that wanted the discomfort to stop and told him to quit, and he remembered hating to admit that he didn’t know how to do something.

Will became a better teacher after his fly fishing experience. He got better at explaining the how and the why of his approach. He got better at breaking down complex skills into smaller pieces, and he gave more actionable feedback. As for being our chorus director, it helped Will relate better to chorus members who might feel the same way about singing as Will did while he was learning to fish. When we hang out in our comfort zone all the time, we forget how uncomfortable it is not to not know things.


Celebrating Our Awkwardness

As someone with a perpetual fascination with my own (perpetual) discomfort, I think a lot about the importance of celebrating the awkwardness and messiness of growth. In our society, built on awards and achievements that we can post on social media, there’s not an incentive to choose activities that don’t lead to a clear and quick win we can share with others. 

Getting out of your comfort zone and into your learning zone means being (comfortably) uncomfortable. Changing the status quo means being uncomfortable! A helpful question to ask ourselves might be: “What is the opportunity cost of avoiding discomfort?”

It’s important to see our willingness to grow as an accomplishment, regardless of the outcome. Sometimes our hobbies are easier places to experiment with growth than in our professional lives, where the stakes seem higher, and we feel like we need to know everything. Hopefully, pushing our comfort zone in our personal lives can help us feel more confident in taking risks professionally.    


We are all unfinished creatures!

When was the last time you saw someone celebrate themselves as a work in progress? When was the last time you gave yourself credit for being present in the process of growth? If it’s been awhile, I’d love to know what challenge you might set for yourself this week – big or small.

If you’d like to chat more about the ways you’re hoping to grow professionally, click here to book a call with me.


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