Starting is Intimidating

Two weeks ago I attended one of my favorite conferences. I’ve been doing marketing & e-commerce for years and I’ve been to dozens of conferences so I’m pretty familiar with the topics and what can be done so when I go to an event it’s easy to jump in. And I have lots of friends in the industry so I'll usually run into someone I know which makes the conference much more comfortable.

Out of my Depth

Last week was a different story. I attended a workshop for pops.

Pops are a technique in acroyoga where you work with a partner to throw them in the air and then (hopefully) catch them.

I’ve dabbled with acroyoga but I’ve only tried pops once. And everyone else at this event have done pops numerous times. And when I walked in I realized how out of my depth I was.

  • I didn’t know a single person
  • Two people started talking about an acroyoga event I’ve never heard of and it sounds like they’ve gone to it 5 years in a row.
  • I’m asked how much experience I’ve had with “Icarian”. I didn’t know what that word even means – and I found out it’s a specific type of pops.

Here I am trying to learn the basics about pops and I accidentally signed up for a specific type of pops and I’m with people who seem to know each other and have been doing this for years. I feel completely out of place and the workshop hasn't even started.

The Workshop

When the workshop starts we form groups of 3-4 people and it’s clear I’m the person with the least experience.

  • I was asked to “receive more”. I had no idea what that phrase even means. It turns out it means you need to decelerate your partner when they land.
  • There were prerequisites which I barely grasped. For a pop from reverse bird to reverse throne we had to start with foot to hand. And I’ve only done that once so I had to spend time covering the basics.

Foot to hand:

I also realized I might have been one of the least fit people in the room. And in a physical practice that’s important. There were 7 people in the workshop and 3 of them had six packs. VISIBLE SIX PACKS. Who are these people that have time to develop 6 packs!?

My group was amazingly kind despite my novice status.

  • They helped me cover the pre-reqs
  • They trusted me to catch them when I popped
  • They were patient with me and never rushed me to finish

Starting is Hard

The point of this article is that I’m reminded how hard it is to join a new community. There’s jargon you don’t know, pre-reqs that you didn’t know about, and humans tend to cluster with people they know. And that’s all after you sign up. You have to first decide to join the community which is a whole different journey.

Having gone to the workshop and feeling completely out of my depth I now feel confident I can handle anything. I already faced being the newbie and I did fine. In fact I did great. I learned a lot and by the end of the workshop I completed almost all of the poses the more experienced members did.

Help Others Starting

If you notice someone is new help them out. It's scary to join a new community where you don't know anyone and don't know what you're doing there. You don't have to learn their life story but chat with them.

I'm pretty confident in the WordPress, marketing, and ecommerce worlds. I'm still new in the acroyoga world and I know I'd appreciate someone approaching me and chatting with me instead of feeling live I have to invade an established circle of people.

Here's how our workshop ended with a reverse throne to bird.

3 thoughts on “Starting is Intimidating

  1. Hey Patrick, I love this post as I’m sure so many can relate to it. I know I have been there, done that, over the last 3 decades for sure 🙂

    It is all about that comfort zone. And for a lot of people, moving into new territory can be scary and with conferences, the same. When I have gone to new conferences and been in the same position, it’s not easy, but I really try to look at it as an exciting new opportunity to learn and meet new people.

    I think we are both so familiar with this in the WordPress community as well. I have talked to people who love the WordCamps, and after attending another tech or marketing conference they shared with me how freaked out there were. It’s an easy bubble to get trapped in.

    Even though many venture into different areas of interest, those conferences where you know a lot of people and are considered knowledgeable in the space by those same people, it’s a comfort zone that is hard for many to leave. All I can hope is that anyone doesn’t stay stuck 😉

    And as you said, it helps if we remember how those people feel, and how we did. Reach out to them. If you see someone standing by themselves and looking around like a deer in headlights, approach them in a casual manner and I’m sure both will end up with a new friend.

    Often we get in our comfort groups and end up creating what looks from the outside as cliques. Many new people are uncomfortable with barging in on those. Another thing for the experienced attendees to be aware of.

    Sorry for the long-winded comment, but from my experience over the years, on both sides, you hit a nerve with me my friend. A good nerve though 🙂

  2. Another nice post, Patrick. Thank you.

    Many of us wish to be perceived as being competent. Too often, that can discourage us from trying something new. In the context of business, that’s dangerous. We cling too long to increasingly outdated skills.

    Once we surrender to the truth that we’re always absolute beginners in damn near every domain, learning new tricks becomes a little less daunting and lonely. Sometimes, we can even learn something cool.

  3. Trevor Parsons

    Your friends’ comments are spot on, Patrick. You put on a talented rearguard action in a difficult environment and it worked beautifully.
    It is a horrible trap, that feeling of needing to look as though you know it all already, but I feel it is probably the innate human condition. To some extent it can be offset by being grateful and a bit humble…..that makes the people around feel good towards you. You know all this already: why am I preaching? Learning is a life-long desire and the key to lasting fulfilment. You know that too; you said that you wished you could go on learning for ever when you were a student. Keep it up!

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