Being a beginner

A few months ago I read an article in Outside magazine by Erin Berger in which she discusses her efforts as a non-outdoors-y person to develop skills at some outdoor sports:

“In the five years since [joining the magazine], I’ve also learned how to climb, backpack, and trail run without hurting myself, and I’ve taken some baby steps in biking and paddling. To me these sports are fine arts, each with their own special world of gear, rules, and lingo. Relatedly, they are also crash courses in trying to gracefully feel stupid in front of other people.”

It’s safe to say that not everyone has an ambition to learn trail running or similar sports. But I picture a great deal of good coming from the last skill she identifies. Think of how huge the need is for us all to learn to gracefully feel stupid in front of other people. Think of the colossal waste represented by all the effort that goes into hiding what we don’t know, in trying to save face, or to bluff, or misdirect people’s attention, lest they notice—what? That we don’t know everything?

I’m not sure what new sport I would take up so I could have a crash course in trying to gracefully feel stupid in front of others. But I do know that I should cross “but I might look stupid” off the list of reasons for not trying something new. If I look or feel stupid, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. Nor would it be the first time.

How are you at feeling stupid in front of others? If you’re good at it, do you have any tips to share?

When I’m rappelling, I’ve usually got enough on my mind that there isn’t time to check if I’m looking stupid.

[Images: Outside Magazine, either El Guapo or my sister—who can remember?]

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