When I started lifting weights a little while ago, I was in Maryland at a pretty nice gym. I was going almost every day at the beginning and just doing all of the different exercises and figuring out how to use the equipment was a good, soreness inducing workout. But there got to be a point where I started to plateau and didn’t feel like I was getting stronger.

I figured that if I practiced pressing 20 pounds over and over, that I would eventually be stronger and move up to 25s. Repeat cycle. Become superwoman. I am all about practicing and feeling like I can do things well before carefully executing (as you can guess – this is about more than the gym). Here’s what I figured out:

That is not how it works. It just doesn’t. If you keep practicing 20s you will be very adept at that weight and be able to do reps for days, but you won’t be any better at the next weight up. The only way you get to move up is by struggling through a couple of reps at the higher weight. It’s messy and hard and you can do a total of maybe 3 before your muscles are dead. Not pretty or well executed, but eventually you can do more.

At this ripe old age I’m starting to figure out that life is pretty much the same. You can’t get good at things before you try to do them, whether it’s running, figuring out at problem at work, or having a tough conversation with a friend. You can watch many YouTube videos or read books – trust me I’ve googled “how to run” more times than I’d like to admit. You will learn a few things, don’t get me wrong. But the only way to figure something out and get better at it is struggling through the beginning. Brene Brown calls it being in the “arena,” people crowded around while you’re wrestling a bull and all hell is breaking loose.

 

“I’m constantly reminding myself that I can’t wait until I’m perfect or bulletproof to walk into the arena because that’s never going to happen. We just have show up and let ourselves be seen – that’s my definition of ‘daring greatly.'”  -Brene Brown