Calibrate Yourself for Success – Blasting Through the Beginner Phase

Calibration is the process of refining your thoughts and behaviors to consistently achieve good results. Just like tuning a musical instrument. When you start learning a new skill or activity, you’ll probably suck. But you can go from beginner to intermediate more quickly.

How to Be a Good Newbie

This calibration does not happen while reading or watching videos. They’re good supplements to your skill building, but it’s not enough. The author cannot convey all the things that will happen to you in the field (or wherever you’re applying your skill).

You have to apply it under real-world conditions. That gives you direct exposure to all the circumstances and mental/emotional states you’ll be in during execution. Your mind can then start generalizing from the experience, predicting what will happen in future attempts and tweaking your performance. When Rocky needed speed and agility, he went after those chickens with a will.

One of the biggest issues people go through when learning anything new is fear. Fear of failure and humiliation (for skills that need to be calibrated in public). This is normal. The trick is not to resist being a newbie. Give up on the standard of performance you expect of yourself, it’s probably set too high. Accept that you’ll suck, that you’re afraid and go straight at it.

Be open and goofy about your newbie status. This will lower resistance and speed up the learning process. Connect with other newbies for some social support. As a cool side benefit, you might make some new friends. You obviously already have some similar interests.


You can take your time to systematically desensitize yourself to fear, but I suggest diving in head first. Redefine success in that skill from getting results to learning a lot. Push out of your comfort zone completely, instead of just dipping in your toes. This will enable you to soak up experience much faster, and you’ll blast through your fear in no time.

The immersion strategy is great for intense dedication to an interest, especially if you’re not sure that you want long-term commitment. Maybe you want to try blogging but don’t want to be a blogger, or dancing without becoming a full time dancer. No problem, just commit to it for a brief burst of time (weeks or months) as if you want it to be a lifelong commitment. You can quit whenever you decide. But maybe you’ll fall in love with it and keep going.

It only takes a few minutes to join a club, start a blog or enroll in an online course. It helps to have some skin in the game, like making a public commitment or paying some cash in advance. What helps me most is constantly looking for and devouring information on the subject, such as quality books, articles and videos. My mind is then constantly chewing on the topic, staying focused and motivated.

Also, try to spend face time with experts in that field. Just by being near them, you’ll pick up on their attitudes and behaviors. Their methods might be too advanced for you in the beginning but one valuable advice on what to do (or NOT to do) can make a world of difference.

Speed Up

Fast is fun! Don’t justify going at a snail’s pace so you can “enjoy the experience”. You risk losing motivation before you get good at something. Ask yourself “How can I achieve this two, five or even ten times faster?” You won’t necessarily succeed ten times faster, but it gets you thinking in new directions.

Faster pacing challenges you to become a better person along the way. You have to change how you think and move. You’ll have to become more organized, focused and discerning (to avoid spending too much time on fluff instead of valuable actions). You’ll have to socialize with other achievers.

If you have tried becoming skillful at something and failed multiple times, maybe you went to slow. Maybe societies tempo fails to keep you motivated and focused. Maybe your teachers were going easy on you. Increasing speed might make the goal compelling enough to finally succeed.

In what ways can you increase the frequency of the activity? How can you become better faster? What sacrifices are you willing to make? This might temporarily throw the rest of your life out of balance, but focus on having balance in the long term. For short bursts, putting other stuff on the back burner ultimately produces better results.

When I joined a Krav Maga gym after years of not practicing martial arts, I wasn’t as good in sparring as I used to (or wanted to) be. So I managed to get the keys to the gym and practiced alone alongside my regular 3-times-a-week schedule. That meant letting other areas in my life slide a bit, but I was willing to make that sacrifice. With focused, deliberate practice,  I was finally able to push through a plateau and calibrate to a higher skill level.

Reaching a New Equilibrium

Calibrating puts your new skill on autopilot. Afterward, you won’t be so focused on specific tricks and techniques, it will become second nature. You’ll just be yourself. The skill has been internalized and your subconscious takes care of the details. Applying your skill is easy now, and you can consistently generate good results.

The saying “like riding a bike” means something is difficult to forget and easy to pick up again. That is exactly what calibration is. You might need to re-calibrate if you haven’t done something for a while, but it will be much easier than learning it the first time.

This opens up a lot of interesting avenues. Once you’re locked in to a new skill, you can focus on the finer details or exploring more exotic methods and experiences. The foundation is there and doesn’t require much attention.

*    *    *

Stop reading and dabbling so much and get your ass out into the field. Learn as you go. Immerse yourself completely and surround yourself with other newbies and experts. Go faster and have some skin in the game. Calibrate is a verb, so get moving.

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