Shubhangi Mittal
Photo by Benjamin Davies on Unsplash

Starting a new job, moving to a new city, buying a new car, becoming a new parent, taking up a new course, going for a new experience — what’s your new? Many times venturing into unknown territory makes us anxious, nervous and uncomfortable. It’s perfectly ok and completely normal.

In my experience, new can fall under one of the three categories:

  1. You know a skill and have to apply it to a new situation.
  2. You know a skill, failed at it previously and are trying it once again.
  3. You are doing something that you have never done before.

(New can be any activity or skill or experience. To enable myself to write about it in a non-abstract manner, I talk about a new skill here.)

Here are some ideas with personal examples that can help you get started and put you at ease:

A. Close the gap between what you know and what you don’t. Ask questions, even the ones you ‘think’ are stoooopid.

I recently moved to a new country and I had to re-learn driving the car. I had to teach myself to drive a left hand drive car and learn a new set of traffic rules. As I worked my way towards getting my driver’s license, I read the usual road rules booklet that was provided for new drivers.

But, I also made sure that I when I sat in any car as a passenger, I observed how the driver was maneuvering the car on the road and learn by observation. You would be amazed at how much you can learn while you are taking that Lyft or Uber ride. This helped me to move from a ‘zero idea’ zone to ‘have a fair idea’ zone. Then, when I went to practice in my driving class, I felt more confident on the road since I had a general idea of what was expected.

The easiest resource is the internet. There is nothing under the sun that google cannot google 🙂

B. Identify what caused you to fail previously.

I have a soft spot for swimming pools. Who doesn’t love to cool off on a hot summer day splashing about in the pool? But, I do not go towards the deep side just because am scared to do so. Just because some kid trying out their first dive landed on me while I swam towards the deep end and almost caused me to drown myself. This was enough to put me off the deep for a long time. But, not anymore. I am determined to overcome this fear by learning to swim once again. I am taking it slow and every day I practice on building my confidence in the water.

It’s ok to fail. The real damage is when we do not learn from that failure. Or when we give up.

Photo by Dale Gray on Unsplash

C. Set small tasks and celebrate every time you accomplish them…

…Just like this cake, sliced into smaller portions. Often, when we set out to learn a new skill, we expect ourselves to become experts at it in a short period of time. We end up getting overwhelmed, judge our seemingly slow progress, compare ourselves with the other experts and eventually lose interest.

This happened to me when I started out learning a new data science tool. I wanted to learn too much too soon and pretty much lost interest when I couldn’t remember how to execute a function that I had learnt the previous day. I sat on it for almost a month when it suddenly hit me- I should have worked on becoming good at it. With regular practice I would build myself into an expert eventually. I was not enjoying the learning process when my goal was to become an overnight expert.

So, become knowledgeable and comfortable with the new skill. Spend at least 30 minutes a day practicing it, if not more. With time and practice, you would be on your way to becoming an expert.

D. Talk to someone who has done it before you. Ask them the stooopid questions.

A colleague, a teacher, a friend, an expert- find someone who can teach you and guide you on your learning journey. Learn from their experience. Many times we assume complexity where none exists or do not see the multiple ways available to us to achieve a task. When you talk to others, you open up your mind to possibilities and that is a good thing! Don’t be shy or afraid to ask for help.

In my previous job, when we launched a new paid ads program with a social channel for professionals, our entire team was new to the content that we would be promoting. We came from different backgrounds and did not necessarily have the required industry expertise at that time. Since we were aligned to specific industries, we were to run our industry-specific ads individually. We had different ad budgets, different audiences that we were promoting to, different ways of promoting (some were using a mass marketing technique, some using the account-based marketing technique and some a mix of both). This meant we would be doing things differently from each other and would get different results. We got the best results out of that program. How? We worked together as a team and learnt from each other. It did not matter that our marketing strategies were different from each other. It was actually a strength! Discussing our different approaches towards ad placements, images, messaging, audience selection and budgeting helped all of us learn and tailor our ad campaigns to suit our industry. Our vendor reps regularly told us how our ads were doing better than the industry benchmarks for the respective industries most of the time. Win!

All of us have different techniques to deal with the new in our lives. These were mine. If you have other ways that may help, please do share.

I love trying out new things in life and at my workplace and wrote this article after deeply analyzing what do I do that helps me do what I do. Hence, the personal examples. 🙂 I thank you for reading what I wrote and would encourage you to click on the clap icon if you liked what I had to say. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for suggestions and ideas for improvement.



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