Random Thoughts

Being Comfortable Being a Beginner

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Google Beta ImageI was excited and then frustrated today. Yesterday I read about the changes Google was making to Gmail. Changes that when I read said to myself “That makes sense, that will work for me”.

Then today I opened my inbox saw the pop-up that said I had gotten the upgrade and clicked continue.

I then went on to struggle figuring out where things were:

  • How do I delete a draft?
  • How do I align something center?
  • Where’d the link button go?
  • Where? What? How do I?

I saw my producitivy today plumit. I felt myself getting frustrated because all of a sudden I was a beginner again.

You have to be comfortable always being a beginner

This is the world we live in. Things change, and change without warning. Yesterday I felt I was a very productive user of Gmail. Today I was a beginner. Today I had to learn, I had to play with a program that I had mastered and start over at being a beginner.

And….I’m OK with that because I realize I’m really never going to master anything again. I’m constantly working towards mastery but as soon as I think I have reached it, things change, progression comes, and I’m back at the beginning. I live in a state of prepetual beta.

I was a master at my Galaxy S III, then I got the latest update and I was a beginner again.

I was a master of OSX 10.6 then 10.7 and now working back to being a master on 10.8 on my Mac Book Air.

I was a master at running, then decided to run barefoot and had to learn to run again.

We, humans, now live in a time that is constantly changing and we need to be comfortable at being a beginner. We need to get to a point where we understand we’ll probably never master a technology again.

I don’t expect everyone to be like me, where I almost crave change, crave something new. I’m crazy like that (hence the changing jobs/countries/schools every 2 to 4 years). I see change as the future and I live for it.

But I know not everyone is that way…but everyone needs to be comfortable with being a beginner and once you allow yourself not to master things but instead learn things, you feel much better about technology and life in general.

So be comfortable being a beginner…that way you are always excited to learn something new.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff Layman Reply

    Follow up questions:

    What are some strategies for actually being comfortable being a beginner? How can we help ourselves and our colleagues be OK with that?

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      Great question! I think it’s a mind set we need to get to. Being a beginner also means failing, it means trial and error, and it means you keep going. It’s a mind set that I find very few people have when it comes to technology we want it to “just work” but we don’t want to take the time to figure out how to make it work. How do we bring this mindset to others? We create a culture where it’s OK to fail, where it’s OK to not know the answer, and where it’s OK to be frustrated when you don’t know how something works or a technology changes on you.

      One of the most powerful presentations I every made to a staff was when I was working with HS teachers and told them I had this crazy idea that I wanted to try in their classroom. I went on to explain how I saw the idea of flipped education working and then ended the presentation saying.

      “I don’t know if this will work, and there is a possibility that it could fail miserably. But the only way we will know whether or not it works is to try it out. So if there are any teachers willing to try and fail with me let me know.”

      i was approached by 6 teachers and out of that 3 of them actually did it.


      It’s a mind set and a cultural change that we can foster in schools and within colleagues.

  2. Thanks for the post Jeff. This really hit home with me as its where some of my challenges lay ahead in my curent job. If I can convince some of my colleagues that change is not a bad thing then doors will start to open for them. I’m like you I do enjoy the change and like learning the new ways of a program or iOS. Looking forward to my Nexus 4 and Android, need to broaden my mobile knowledge. It’s not something to be frightened of, our students do it all the time and I imagine that they look at some of their teachers and wonder why they don’t.

  3. I am right there with you. That’s why I created the infographic on process over product. The central theme in my life this month has been that it’s the process that creates shared understanding, and learning.

    I guess I have never really seen myself as an expert though-there are too many things to learn and ponder. I love the ideas, the possibilities, and actions follow. But by then, I am often in the next idea process.

    I think it’s important to let go of the idea of being an expert and dive into process. Suddenly, you then become more masterful at creating and thinking, and these are the real skills necessary these days.

  4. I really enjoy how you took a personal experience of yours and shared how it can be related to everyday life. It can sometimes be intimidating to be a beginner or start something new, but I agree that it is important to be comfortable with the change. I can remember being nervous and confused the first day of my first job. Halfway through the day, a customer I was helping told me not to worry, “everyone has a first day”. I try to keep that thought in mind when starting something new. As you said, we are in a world of constant change. When there is a change in technology, employment, living situations, or anything else, it is important to embrace the change and learn from it. Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  5. Scott Nelson Reply

    Great post. I am also a beginner as of late. After multiple problems getting my new iPhone 5 to sync properly with Outlook, I have dumped Microsoft Office. I have had a Gmail account for years and have always used Outlook to retrieve the mail. Now I’m getting it all on the Web. It took a little getting used to but not nearly as long as it takes to figure out a new version of Office. I have also decided to use Google Drive/Docs instead of Word and Excel. For the simple way i use them Word and Excel are serious overkill. Again, a learning curve with the Google docs but once I get everything up and running I can already tell I’m going to be much happier.

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  13. Thank Jeff, this post made me laugh! I was frustrated when I updated to the latest version of Gmail too. Suddenly I couldn’t find anything! Where had the emoticons gone?!

    My question is, do we really need all of these updates, or is it just the technical equivalent of moving the furniture around? I mean if it ain’t broke, why fix it?

    Sometimes there are cool new features that come with upgrades, but often I’m left looking for things because they’ve been moved or hidden somewhere obscure.

    I recently updated “Scramble With Friends” on my iPhone after ignoring the prompts to update for ages. I was happy to discover that I now have a new “mega freeze” function, which I suspect my friends have been using against me for months. Hence the reason I kept loosing! Serves me right I suppose.

    I guess I’m OK with never being a master of anything as long as I get to choose when I go back to being a beginner again.

    • Jeff Utecht Reply

      If only we could choose…we do usually have a choice like with your update on your phone. But most updates do have function added. I for one love always beging a beginner…not sure why…but to me that is what learning is all about.

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