I have an embarrassing story to tell you.
Watch the video above to hear me tell it in all its horrible detail.
A few months ago, I was at a beach in Sydney, and I saw some guys playing beach volleyball.
I played volleyball for many years in London (in the amateur league), but hadn’t touched a ball for more than a year.
So I asked the guys if I could join in, and they said yes.
I get on the sand.
I’m ready (or so I thought…)
The opponent serves the first ball towards me, I dive towards it, and…
The ball hits me square in the face.
Like in a cartoon.
It even cuts my nose open by bending my sunglasses, as you can see below.
Honestly, it was quite embarrassing.
I used to be able to dig (receive) balls like that easily, but I was obviously very rusty.
And I had a mouth full of sand to prove it.
At this point, I could have accepted that I wasn’t as good as I used to be and quit.
But instead, I dusted myself down, got back up, and kept playing. And I had a lot of fun with those random guys for the next hour or so.
(Even if my serving was terrible…)
What this story can teach us about creativity
Many people have hobbies or skills which they haven’t been able to do for a while. Often, these are things which they used to take a lot of joy in when they were younger, but then something got in the way.
Like getting older and going to university, getting a job or taking care of a family.
All of a sudden, they realise they haven’t had time to do the things they used to love.
These things could be anything, from sport to music to painting to public debating to performing in community theatre. Often, they are ways that people used to express themselves creatively.
And now they wish they could start doing these hobbies again, but…
…they are worried.
They are worried that they won’t be as good as they used to be, that it will be harder than it used to be, that their performance won’t be good anymore, that it will make them feel bad, or even worse, embarrass themselves in front of others (especially those who are already better than them).
This is the metaphor of me getting hit in the face by a volleyball because I was rusty.
And as a result, these people end up never restarting something which used to bring them such joy.
But it doesn’t need to be that way.
Ultimately, if you have ever felt this way, you have a choice.
Are you willing to push beyond the comfort barrier of something being harder than it used to be, in order to improve your skills enough to enjoy it again?
Yes, skills will decrease if you don’t use them for a while.
That is why deliberate practice is so important for continuing to improve performance.
But this doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth starting again.
You just need to be willing to push through the initial challenge and realise that through pushing yourself, you can improve your skills beyond where they currently are.
In some cases, you may never be able to achieve the performance levels you did in the past (especially true with sports as we age).
But could you get back to a level where you feel a sense of accomplishment, pride an joy?
And especially when it comes to creative outlets.
That is one of the reasons why I recommend everyone should have a monthly creative project they complete for themselves.
Its main purpose is to prove to yourself that you can produce something new and unique by a deadline. In this case, one new thing a month.
And each month, try things a little bit differently than the last month. To improve and push yourself a little bit.
If you are willing to do that, then getting that inevitable “metaphorical volleyball in the face” is actually is great thing.
It is proof that you’re back to trying something you were previously scared of.
And that is the important first step.