Catching Fireflies

finding magic along the way

Making Noise with Two Left Feet


Years ago, my voice teacher used to tell me that anything worth doing was worth doing poorly until we learned to do it well. This is a lesson I must relearn all the time.

Why is “beginner” a dirty word? When did it become embarrassing to do something and make a mistake because you are still learning?

I think it is important for each and every one of us to do something new every day or at least every week. I am not saying we have to get up in front of an auditorium full of strangers and try to dance or play the piano without ever having a lesson, but we should try something that makes us nervous, that might make us stumble. Doing this, even in the privacy of our own home, is a great way to stretch our comfort zone.


There is something freeing about allowing ourselves to be a beginner. It gives us permission to make loud mistakes, look foolish and make a mess. If you are like me, you spend your whole life cleaning up messes of one kind or another, or at the very least, trying not to make any. We expect perfection from ourselves. And heaven forbid, we show ourselves as being less than perfect in front of friends and strangers!

Natalie Goldberg tells her students about beginner’s mind in Writing Down the Bones. It is a state of mind that invokes playfulness, curiosity and being fearless in the face of mistakes.

“That beginner’s mind is what we must come back to every time we sit down and write. There is no security, no assurance that because we wrote something good two months ago, we will do it again. Actually, every time we begin, we wonder how we ever did it before. Each time is a new journey with no maps.”

It is only through mistakes and learning that we can ever expect to master anything. And “master” is a relative term here. I certainly never expected to become a virtuoso when I began violin lessons at 38, and I don’t expect to give Segovia a run for his money by starting the guitar now. 🙂 I do know that I will improve despite my halting attempts at clear notes now.


My biggest obstacle at the moment is not saying “oops” out loud every time I hit the wrong note. 🙂

This process holds true in everything we do. Maybe you are learning a new program at work, starting yoga, or learning to paint. You will make mistakes. I can guarantee it. But if not for mistakes, how do you expect to learn and grow?

We forgive so many mistakes in others, but are afraid to appear foolish ourselves. I think life is richer when we can let that fear go and just do it anyway. Embrace exuberant imperfection! Allow yourself to make a huge mess!


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    1. Stay Together and Hold Hands | Catching Fireflies

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