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Being a perpetual student

This post is the second in a series following on my newsletter article “Don’t Just Do Something!” You may want to read that article first, and also the initial post in the series, “Bright shiny things.” The links open in a new window, so you won’t lose your place here.

I have serious perpetual-student tendencies. 

I love learning new things.  I love learning more about things I already know about.  And I’ve struggled to believe that I know enough, that I’m not going to embarrass myself by making some sort of obvious mistake.

But being a perpetual student keeps me from showing up in the ways you, as my blog reader (and/or client), deserve. 

Not so incidentally, it also wastes my time and money.  And I feel resentful and annoyed when I buy a book, program, or other product and it turns out I already knew 95% (or more) of what’s being presented.

That’s not to say the book, program, or product is bad.  It’s quite the reverse:  it’s saying I do know my stuff.  And sometime last year I realized it’s time to get off my pile of books, stop reading every blog in sight looking for one last nugget of wisdom, and start putting my own nuggets out there.

So that’s exactly what I’ve been doing.  I haven’t succumbed to the temptation to buy programs or books in quite a while.  (There were a couple of near misses, but I pulled myself back from the brink on each of them!) 

I’ve realized that although I may not know all that Expert X or Guru Y know, I do know things they may not know – especially since I approach my work with clients from a rather different-than-usual perspective.

Putting an end to being a perpetual student doesn’t mean putting an end to learning.  I’d never suggest that.  But it does mean putting an end to using feelings of not knowing enough as an excuse for not showing up.  And it means allowing myself to recognize that I am the expert my clients need.

What about you?  Are you allowing your desire to know more, or your insecurity about not knowing enough, to keep you stuck in perpetual-student mode?  Is it time to move out from there, to stop focusing on what you don’t know, and start focusing on showing up for your business, your clients, and yourself?

What would happen if you knew that right now, in this minute, you know enough?

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Comments

Comment from Alistair
Time 2010/05/31 at 8:18 pm

There is a point where you can be stuck in a loop of always preparing for something, but not actually doing it. The ‘waiting until things are perfect’ syndrome. But is also sounds like your ‘perpetual student’, in its way. Another way of procrastinating. I’ve been doing a bit of study myself of late, but hadn’t thought that it might be also a trap.

Something to ponder.

I do believe that sometimes there is a perfect moment. Sometimes everything is fully ready. Sometimes you get a great result from waiting for that, and for preparing for that: and much better than going too early or late. But sometimes that just doesn’t happen, or isn’t going to happen in the present environment, and you’ve got to go with what you’ve got. The trick is knowing when that is true. Because as you point out, waiting around (even if you call it studying, or preparing, or whatever) generally doesn’t get you what you want either. It isn’t doing what you set out to do in the first place. And succeed or fail, you generally get an experience you can learn from when you do something.

Comment from Grace
Time 2010/06/01 at 8:57 am

Alistair – Yes, indeed, the waiting for perfection syndrome is similar to the perpetual student syndrome. And there are others, all of which are expressions of that nagging sense of uncertainty and fear.

But the thing is (and this will be, I suspect, the topic of my next newsletter article), when we wait for perfection, or for that final piece of knowledge, or even for fear to go away – we’ll wait forever.

That “perfect moment” is almost always recognized in hindsight rather than in the moment. Actually, I’d say it’s just about always recognized in hindsight.

And I particularly like your last point. Yes. No matter what happens, you’ll generally learn more by taking action than by waiting!