Don’t Apologize for Being an Awkward Teenager

No one expects you to know what you’re doing when you’re getting started.

by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)
by Colter Reed
2:07 read (647 words)

Were you an awkward teenager? I was. I’ll admit it. There’s no point in trying to hide it. We all were.

I thought I had everything figured out. In hindsight, it feels like I didn’t know a thing. Sure, you can see the seeds of knowledge, a work ethic, and correct principles which I’ve built on since then.

But by comparison, I didn’t have a clue. It’s nothing to apologize for or feel bad about. In fact, it’s a good thing.

As a teenager, you’re still learning how to be a person. You’re learning responsibility and compassion. You’re learning how to be independent so that one day, you can become interdependent with others, start to specialize, and live with synergy.

Like anything, it’s okay to not know what you’re doing when you’re starting out. Nobody expects you to, whether it’s how to be an adult, how to swing a golf club, or how to do a hill start.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t hold others’ beginner mistakes against them. Help them. Mentor them. Just because you have something figured out doesn’t mean they do.
  • Don’t compare your beginning with others who are further along than you. Or vice versa. Support them. Encourage them. Even if they’re ahead of you. We all learn at different rates. What you struggle with may come naturally to them. There’s something else they wish they were as good at as you are.
  • Don’t compare your rough draft with others’ polished presentations. Social media is an edited highlight reel. You see the beautiful dinners, pristine beaches, and memorable parties. They have their burned dinners, drab commutes, and nights where they have to scrub the carpet at 2:00 A.M., too.
  • Don’t give up just because you’re not good at something right away. It takes 10,000 hours of dedicated practice before you get good at something. If it’s important and interesting—to you—keep at it. Mastery is something we have to earn.
  • Don’t assume it’s just you. Everybody is going through the same thing. Others need your patience and compassion as much as you need theirs. Assume they’re doing their best; with your help they could do even better. Sometimes, that means just having the right attitude.

It’s okay if you don’t know what you want at first. We begin with the end in mind, but that end isn’t locked in. We can make a new decision and continue with a different end in mind. We still have an end we’re working towards.

There’s only so much you can learn through books, podcasts, and YouTube videos. At some point, you have to get off the couch, get out of your comfort zone, and try it yourself.

I can look back at who I was twenty-five years ago and see how far I’ve come since then. I thought I knew it all at the time, but I didn’t. Not even close. The best part of that perspective? I know that twenty-five years from now, I’m going to look back at who I am today and feel the same way.

No, I don’t know everything today. Neither do you. Nobody does. If we said otherwise, we wouldn’t be fooling anybody but ourselves.

But we keep going. We keep learning. Eventually, we’ll earn the privilege of looking back at today and smiling with fondness at everything we’ve learned since.

Question: How can you encourage someone else who’s learning something today? Share your thoughts in the comments, on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Facebook.

Even the best movies leave a lot on the cutting room floor.