Learning As I Go

by tjbeitelman

I’m sanding the front door to my house so that I can put a fresh coat of paint on it. Here are ten things I’ve learned in that process:

  • I could keep sanding forever. Just when I think I’m done, a new rough edge presents itself.
  • I’m using the tools I have, which aren’t ideal.
  • I’m not the best in the world at sanding things. I’m not very good at it at all.
  • I avoid doing things I’m not very good at.
  • I spend a lot of time and energy wishing I was good at things I’m not very good at.
  • I’m the one who has to decide when to stop sanding and start painting. This will require guesswork.
  • In the end, the door won’t look perfect. It might not even look good.
  • I’m the one who has to decide what’s good enough.
  • “Good enough” is better than it looked when I started sanding.
  • “Good enough” is probably better than I think it is, but it’s not the end of the world if it isn’t.

Turns out sanding a door feels a lot like writing a novel or teaching a class or doing anything else that really matters to me. I can’t do it perfectly. I don’t even know how to do it well. If I tried to learn how to do it well before I started, I’d never start, much less finish. I know that’s not how it is for everybody, but that’s how it is for me. The best I can hope for is to learn how to become incrementally better at it as I go. I may or may not have a passably sanded and painted door when I’m done. But I’ll probably be less scared to start the process all over again when (not if) that time comes.