Last week I had the privilege of testing my ukulele teaching skills for the first time at a church summer music camp for kids in Katy, TX. In total there were ~100 campers (5-10 years old) who each learned basic skills on a variety of instruments, including ukulele, piano, percussion, voice, violin and more. That's A LOT of new things for a human to process in one week, let alone 5-year-olds.
What struck me the first day of camp was how foreign playing ukulele is for little kids (it's been 6+ years now since I first picked up a uke, so I can easily take some basic skills for granted). Strumming, picking, finding chords, and telling our pinkies to move in ways that are completely new is awkward! But no matter how "foreign" the skill at first, most of the kids were eager to give it a try.
The younger ones were especially excited and quick to jump in, but they could be equally discouraged when trying something that wasn't initially easy.
Thankfully, I had a few tricks up my sleeve to up the fun factor when needed, like equating certain parts of the fretboard to "lava" that they had to stay away from. As soon as their imaginations were engaged, the kids got excited again about playing this "game." The only thing I did was change their mental frame of reference.
As adults, we go through these same stages when learning something new (hopefully with a bit more ability to self-regulate our emotions, though not always!). But we have the added pressure of "needing to learn quickly" so we can look good in front of our family, our boss, or even just strangers around us.
If only we could remove that pressure!
Oh wait. We can...because it's mostly in our heads.
And let me tell you from personal experience, there is so much beauty in being joyfully BAD at something, knowing it, accepting and even laughing at it, and working on improving anyway.
The beginner mindset has so many benefits that we adults try to breeze through. But the next time you start learning something new, I invite you to sink into that beginner status for a while. Slow down the process and learn as if you were going to teach someone else those same skills the next day (extra points if you CAN teach someone what you learned--you will remember it a lot better if so!).
Find ways to insert your imagination into the process--find your "lava"--and turn learning into a game.
We may be older, taller, and more caffeinated than kids, but they carry their own wisdom that we ourselves once knew--how to connect to joy in the moment, no matter how out of our comfort zones they may be.
Here's to truly embracing the Beginner Mindset this week :)
I hope to see some of you tomorrow night at Bistro Byronz (Midcity location) - 5:30pm to 8:30pm!
Ashley Orlando is a jazz vocalist/ukulele artist and coach who helps growth-focused leaders find their voice, grow their presence & amplify their impact.