Skip the Fundamentals

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”

Walt Disney

Learning the fundamentals is an important part of mastering any skill. By building a solid foundation, you give yourself a broader vocabulary to work with. For example, learning scales, chords, and playing by ear on an instrument will open the doors to learning any song.

But, I question whether or not starting with the fundamentals is a good idea. Or at least, I don’t think it works universally as a perfect starting point for beginners.

Have you heard of the concept of something “being on rails”? It’s generally applied to video games or a ride at an amusement park.

Fundamentals are fantastic and an essential thing to learn, but they can also lock us into a specific way of thinking—which also happens to be how everyone else and their mother thinks too.

Structure isn’t always beneficial. Sometimes you just need to sit in front of a sketchbook, or piano or box of legos, and see what comes out of your imagination. Sometimes it’s better to just throw ourselves in the middle of something and figure things out.

Skipping the fundamentals can also be an advantage. By jumping right in, playing around and learning things on your own, you can give your art/work a unique angle. Why? Because you don’t know the rules. You don’t know you’re doing something out of the ordinary or “wrong”.

Without the fundamentals, you don’t know any better. Which one hand, could cause you to pick up some bad habits, but on the other hand, could lead to new ways of thinking and creating.

When we don’t know the rules, we don’t know we are breaking the rules. This is hazardous for public pools, office rules, and social situations. But when it comes to creativity, not knowing what’s “impossible” is an opportunity to create something original.

As artists and entrepreneurs, thinking something is “impossible” or “improbable” is very closed-minded thinking. By thinking something is impossible for us to do, we’ve already boxed ourselves in from ever being able to do it. While at the same time we think it’s impossible because of X, Y Z reason, some naive bold person out there is building it and figure it out anyway.

Of course, fundamentals aren’t always bad. Knowing how to do your taxes is a good skill to have. The key is to take the time to discover things on your own first and to let your curiosity and imagination drive you first. Then add the fundamentals to what’ve you’ve discovered and experienced on your own to enhance your skills even further.

It’s much easier to add to your knowledge than take it away.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1022

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Who’s Good at This?

“The only source of knowledge is experience.”

Albert Einstein

We are living in a golden age of information. If there’s something you want to learn, someone somewhere is sharing (or selling) how to do it.

A great place to start learning is to figure out what options you have at your fingertips.

Not all resources are at the same quality and impact. You could spend hours and hours watching YouTube videos on anything (like fly fishing 🎣) or spend days reading about entrepreneurship on a billion blogs or social accounts. But just because the content exists, doesn’t mean it’s worth your time.

There’s a countless number of people teaching things they don’t actually do or know how to do. Experimenting is great. I eat that stuff up. But it’s good to filter out anyone/content that talks big but doesn’t actually practice what they speak.

That being said, there’s an incredible amount of free knowledge out there (and an insane amount of paid content as well). This is a perfect time to really invest in your practice or the skills you want to become great at.

The more immersive, the more effective. Meaning, don’t just watch a cooking video, or a tutorial on programming in python—go out there and get some hands-on experience. Armchair knowledge is great for parties (zoom parties?), but not so much in becoming a master in something.

Who’s good at this I can look to for tips and insight? Who is knee-deep in their craft I can emulate?

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #1019

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Beginner’s Sandbox

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.”

Shunryu Suzuki

You don’t have to be something great to start doing it. This took me a while to figure out. I wanted to write, but I wanted to be able to write well, so I ended up not doing it at all. If perfectionism is what keeps us from finishing, then Proficiency (and lack thereof) is what keeps us from starting.

Wanting to be great can push us forward towards being great, but it can also push us towards doing nothing.

It’s a matter of high expectations, and thinking (wishing) we were great immediately. We hear stories from iconic people from history and professionals making it look easy today and we think we should be able to pick up a basketball (a pen, a guitar, a [insert your thing here] ) and be amazing at using it. This misunderstanding leads us to quit before we even start, and feel disappointed when we aren’t exceptional on the first try.

Nothing is easy the first time. And if it is, it certainly won’t be easy the second time. Or the third.

It takes practice and smart consistency to become great at something. It takes a whole crater of effort and discomfort to become ‘so good they can’t ignore you’. 

But it only takes a little effort to start today. Being a beginner means you have room to try whatever you want. As a beginner, there is no pressure to conform to what’s trending or what our past success demands of us. We get to play in obscurity. We get to have cake and eat it too. 

You don’t have to be something great to start doing it. You just have to start doing it.

STAY BOLD, Keep Pursuing,
— Josh Waggoner | Daily Blog #849

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