Day 7: Dive in.

31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner // Day 7: Dive in.

Day 7 of 31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner

Have you ever had an idea of where you wanted to be, or where you should be, but just didn't know how to get there? Maybe you didn't feel ready, yet. Or maybe you had an idea of where to start, but got caught up in making it perfect.

The only way around this: Start anyway. Learn and prepare as quickly and as best you can, and dive right in just as quickly.


When I started teaching conversational English classes in Mongolia, I had a general idea of the goal: Help native Mongolians learn basic English through conversation. Simple enough, right?

Having only recently completed my sophomore year of high school, I didn't exactly have training for this endeavor. To put it more accurately, I was absolutely clueless. That first day was certainly the most awkward.

I stood in front of a dimly lit room. It was mid-October, so while it was only 6:00 p.m. it was already completely dark outside. Around ten to fifteen students, all at least twice my age, stared at me expectantly. I started a few attempts at introduction, and prodding others to introduce themselves.


Just expectant, and now slightly confused, stares in return. One student slipped out to snag the secretary, Ourna, who came in to be a mediator in this inconvenient language barrier. Where I had thought "conversational" insinuated there would be some understanding, the students were ready to just come and glean whatever they could while I spoke. For an hour. To people that didn't understand me. And my goal was to help them learn to speak English.

Ourna stayed just long enough to help with introductions and explain to them my new spur-of-the-moment plan: We would spend class time playing a word association game to help them build their vocabulary.

I borrowed my friends' Taboo cards and wrote the main word on the chalkboard. The students would then add related words. If they didn't know what the word was, they'd stare at me blankly and I'd start filling in similar words, also using charades and short descriptions to help them grasp the meaning.

There would always be at least one student that would get it, offering the classmates the Mongolian translation, and everyone would start to nod in understanding, offering an "aaahhh" affirmation.


I wouldn't have believed on this first day that eventually I would actually earn a class' trust. That a group would ask me to go to a museum with them, or that a class would plan a party with me to close the term, or that a student would invite me into her home. Or that a couple students would return for each new term because they liked me. (One reminded me of a Mongolian version of Joey from the TV show Friends.)

None of that seemed possible in the midst of my clueless beginning. But I sucked it up, and started anyway. I even took on teaching actual beginner courses where we had a real book to learn from. Not because I knew where to start or felt any less nervous--simply because I knew it'd be a good experience and I accepted the challenge.

The lesson: Stop using "I don't know where to start" as an excuse. Stop hiding behind expectations of perfection or nerves of not being ready, and dive in. Get a translator to help the transition if you must, but just start.

More ideas on starting to come in the next few days.


Answer in the comments:

Do you recall a time when you put uncertainty aside and dove in? How did you overcome not knowing where to start?

Day 7 of 31 Lessons from an Epic Beginner