“¿Qué quieres para tu desayuno?” she asked me with a smile.
My landlady was an energetic 70-year-old-something woman, who did everything in swift movements, and with great attention.
All Spanish words escaped me, as I tried to remember how to conjugate the verb “querer”, to want, in my head.
I finally managed to squeeze out a “Quiero pan, por favor.” And a piece of bread and some ham was the only thing I had during my first week in Barcelona.
I had just finished high school, and this was the first time I was abroad on my own, walking down my own path.
But I didn’t just learn Spanish that year. I learned a far more important lesson: to embrace a beginner’s mind… and to get over my fear of looking like a fool.
Public humiliation and newfound courage
I spoke like a five-year-old in the beginning, and it sucked.
Speaking a foreign language used up all the brainpower I had, plus it gave me a headache. Out of all things, a sense of isolation was the worst. After school, I would go home and cry.
Then I made a decision. I could sit and weep all day, or I could get out and enjoy the city. I am glad to say I chose the latter.
A beginner’s mind is fearless
Those four months in Spain taught me how to embrace a beginner’s mind. I made a few friends, and my skills quickly accelerated as I went from beginner to more advanced.
Here’s what they don’t teach you in high school: to really learn a foreign language (and its culture), you have to be willing to look like a fool for a while.
Be curious. Make plenty of mistakes, and make them fast. It’s the quickest way to learn.
A fool with a tool
The ability to look like a fool has served me well over the years, both personally and professionally. It taught me how to run my own blog, write my own newsletter, and apply for jobs I didn’t think I was eligible for.
When was the last time you felt way out of your depth? Do yourself a favour, and make it a habit. Embrace your inner child and get in there and get going.
It’s the only way to learn, really. And who knows where it will take you.
Get support, skills and encouragement while you walk down your own path
Take the Road Less Travelled is my flagship course on how to live a more courageous life. It’s a mental training program, where I teach my students how to push their own boundaries, one step at a time.