Fall is here and school is in session. It is time to hit the books! It is never too late to learn something new. For some of us we have been out of school for a long time. The idea of learning a new skill can be a little frightening. How do you go about learning something new?
It is a good idea to figure out how you learn best. I love to read, but I am a very visual learner. When I try to read an instruction manual my head starts to spin! However if there is a diagram I have better luck. Some folks learn audibly, Find a Podcast on your favorite subject. Use the mighty Facebook mind hive to help you find the best education. There are still DVD’s available! From face painting to magic and ventriloquism someone is putting a DVD or podcast out on the subject. Not all education is created equal! Talk to your friends to find out who has the best product. See if you can get them through your local library.
The biggest thing to remember regardless how you learn best is to remember it is O.K. to make a mistake. That first bag of balloon animals may end up looking like refugees from a nuclear plan, no matter! You will improve with practice. Accept from the beginning that you will not astound yourself with your “natural” ability. Kids really don’t care if each bubble is not in perfect proportion. They will love you all the more if you tell them you are just a beginner. Little kids especially can relate to that and will be on your side.
Giving yourself permission to fail or at least not be perfect is the first step. I knew a guy who taught people how to juggle. He said you are going to drop the balls at least 100 times before you get it. So you might as well get started dropping those balls and get it out of your system! I love that idea!
Now you may be new to clowning or trying to learn a new skill. Yikes! You are going to make mistakes but it is ok and expected part of learning something new. As adults we are not suppose to make mistakes. We have this misguided notion that we should have it all figured out by now. Wrong. Making mistakes make us feel uncomfortable. By now most of us are competent at what we do, or we are really good at hiding our mistakes!!! When you start to learn something new get ready to feel uncomfortable. Just by making a mental note about this makes all the difference. Remind yourself that with practice this feeling will go away and it is all a natural part of learning something new. If you don’t make mistakes or fail at something you try, you are not trying very hard or challenging yourself very much.
What happens when you try to learn something new and you just can’t get it? Ask for help! Don’t’ be afraid to call the company you purchased the trick or item from and ask for assistance. Take the trick or prop to your next clown club meeting and see if someone else has figured it out and can help you. A few minutes of hands on help can make all the difference in the world. But first you have to ask for the help you need and just “get over it”. Most clowns are really are generally happy to help.
This can also make for a great alley meeting activity! In advance let your club members know that you will be having a “What the heck do I do with this” night. Have members bring those challenging items and then share the fun and knowledge. You can have a show and “tell me how to do this” kind of event. You can share skills, learn something new, and have a few laughs. Sessions like these can build a sense of teamwork and self-esteem within a clown club as well. Everyone wins.
When learning a new skill, set reasonable goals. Set a specific time you will practice. Put it on your calendar. For real results you need to be committed to practice. In Ringling Bros. Barnum and Bailey Clown College we put our make-up on every day for weeks. That is what it takes to get proficient at a skill commitment. At Moose Camp our Clowning 101 course puts their make-up on everyday as well. It keeps your ideas fresh in your mind. If you only think about improving a skill once a month when you have a performance lined up you will not get good results. Since I brought up Moose Camp, I will tell you learning with people who think like you brings great results. Sometimes what you need is the encouragement of friends to push you forward, encourage you to try, laugh together as we struggle. That is why Moose Camp is such a special place!
If you are having trouble getting motivated invite, a friend to practice with you. That will keep you on track and it is more fun that way. Sometimes you have to put your feet to the fire. If you are pretty good at something, but you just need that extra push, book it!!!! What I mean is set up a performance using that skill or new show! You sense of commitment will nag you until you get it done. If there is no set goal it is very easy to put learning something new on the back burner.
Next year I want to have something special to perform for Mooseburger Camp. Something different. I need to start now if I really want to have something meaningful to show. How many gags can you write around a rubber chicken??? Maybe a new song? Maybe just maybe….well since I have told you I am going to do it. I guess I better get started! LOL!