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Just Don't

Bench Racing

by Ryan King

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Cruising the boards again has reminded me of a lot of mistakes I've made in the past.

It's also reminded me of a bit of advice:

If you don't know what you're doing, don't do it.

That has always sounded like terrible advice to me.

In my youth, I hated it when some old guy who didn't know as much as he thought he did, said something like that.

That kind of poorly qualified advice is limiting and ignorant, but there is some truth to it, provided it isn't a blanket, over-generalized statement about life or anything within it.

If what you are working on is something that matters to you and you don't know what you're doing, then don't do it, unless — and I can't stress this part enough — you learn how to.

That will mean book learning.

It will mean practicing.

And it will mean gaining experience by screwing up until you finally succeed — and it will probably require a lot of both.

Repeated failures — and successes — is the path to real mastery.

Just don't screw up something you care about — like your prized car — by practicing on it.

If you need it done right now and you don't know how, then find someone who can do it correctly for you, but don't screw it up because you don't know any better.

There's a trick to not knowing and it goes far beyond just recognizing what you don't know. And although that in itself isn't easy — and this isn't all there is to it — it includes being able to analyze the gaps in what you do know and to have the self-control not to allow your anxiousness to cause you to make a bad choice.

Basically, it boils down to "stop, think, and learn."

Patience isn't just a virtue, it's an absolute necessity in life, and I've seen plenty of people from 18-90+ do something ill-advised because they lacked or didn't exercise it — even if they justified it before, during, or after they did it.

So, let's revisit that advice and make it intelligent:

If you don't know what you're doing, stop. Get some space. Think about it. Make a considered, educated decision.

Most importantly learn and continually re-learn from whatever decision you make because even what you've learned from lessons in the past will change as you gain more knowledge, skill, and experience — and bring that growth to bear on the results of those decisions.

Ryan

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