“Be patient with yourself. Self-growth is tender; it’s holy ground. There’s no greater investment.”
Almost four years ago I made a decision to step into the world of radio by agreeing to host my own Internet talk radio show with HayHouseRadio.com. For years I’ve been a big fan of talk radio. I kept the idea of creating my own show in the back of my mind until I felt ready to cut back on travel in order to make the time commitment that a weekly show requires. When I took on the challenge of learning something brand new, I had a chance to feel like a naked, vulnerable little kid again, something I hadn’t felt in a long time.
Years ago, when I worked for a consulting firm that helped displaced workers learn job search skills, I was given a model of the learning process to use with clients as they navigated the uncomfortable waters of starting a new job. Regardless of how talented or experienced a client was, the new beginning always provoked stress and tension. As a matter of fact, I quickly discovered that the smarter the client, the more vulnerable he or she felt when starting a new job. Being well-prepared by understanding the process of learning always reduced the anxiety and allowed them to do their best work.
Stepping into the world of radio gave me a chance (once again) to use this valuable model on myself. In the beginning, I was pretty stressed out. Just moments before my first show, I could barely contain my fear. My throat went dry, my palms were sweaty, and I could actually feel my insides shaking. But I got on the air anyway. In spite of my anxiety and dread, I entered into the first stage of learning called: Consciously Incompetent.
Stage 1 – Consciously Incompetent – In this stage, most of us feel vulnerable, anxious and uneasy because we’re beginners and we know we don’t know. We’re entering new territory without a map of experience. And, what makes matters more difficult is that our inner critic tends to remind us of this fact over and over again. I call this the “fraud stage,” when we live in constant fear of being seen for what we are – incompetent beginners. This stage requires lots of support, deep breathing, and compassion for oneself. Otherwise, you’ll drive yourself nuts. It also requires something more – the inner strength to hang in there so you can give this new beginning a fair chance.
There were plenty of times during the first few months of doing the show when I wanted to quit. I told myself it wasn’t as fun as I imagined it to be. I hated the anxiety I felt on Sunday nights (my show airs on Monday), and I questioned whether or not I had the talent to make it work. But with the support of people who worked in the field, my staff, and good friends who knew how much I loved radio, I was encouraged to stay on the air. I’m so glad I did. Once I had a few months under my belt, I started to relax. I still felt nervous at the start of every show, but the anxiety diminished pretty quickly as I began to work with callers. When I made mistakes (and trust me, there were plenty!), I simply chalked it up to the learning process and moved on. I was now entering the next stage of learning: Consciously Competent.
Stage 2 – Consciously Competent – This is the stage when you get some experience under your belt and you start to feel more at ease with your abilities. You know what you’re doing (at least the basics) and you can breathe a little easier and actually enjoy your work. As you keep at it, you develop a confident inner voice that gently tells the inner critic to step back and be quiet. Once you get to this stage, you’re in a much better position to make wise choices about whether or not to continue. And you finally get to enjoy what you’re doing. Then, before you know it, you slip into stage three: Unconsciously Competent.
Stage 3 – Unconsciously Competent – This stage is where the fun begins! You know what you know. You know what you don’t know. And you’re fine with both. During this stage, there are certain aspects of your work that you no longer need to think about because the actions just come naturally. The funny thing about this stage is that we finally realize that an expert, a true expert, is someone who’s not afraid to admit what they don’t know. When they get stuck, they’re not afraid to admit it and they no longer feel foolish asking for help.
I have no doubt that just about everyone reading this newsletter is starting something new – a relationship, a job, a business, a life on your own, or maybe a move to a new neighborhood. If you’re in the consciously incompetent stage, take a deep breath and know you’re not alone. Reach out for support, give your fear a voice rather than keep it inside, and be patient. We all have to pass through this stage to get to the joy on the other side. You never know, you might be entering one of the most extraordinary periods of your life.