Kansas State University


Student Stories

Beginner’s Survival Kit


Palms sweaty? Knees weak? Arms heavy? Well, that is okay, you do not have to know much to start. Being an expert in anything is all about putting in time, making mistakes, and being curious. Today I felt like writing about every time I was super nervous about starting something I have never done before, and how that nervousness is sooner rather than later replaced with confidence.

Act One: 10,000 hours.

When I first started working at Admissions, I had a lot of spreadsheets and a lot of software to learn. I had little experience with Excel and I had never used any of the software. It was scary, everything seemed complicated, and I never thought I could get the hang of it. Well, it did not take much more than repetition and practice to become proficient with it all. In Maclolm Gladwell’s book, Outliers, he cites a study at Berlin’s Elite Academy of Music where they tally up the time put in practice by the violinists at the academy to study the pattern among both the elite and the less able performers.

“All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice. The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.” –Wisdom Group Blog

It definitely does not take 10,000 hours to master many things in life, but the moral of the story is that practice is far more of a compelling factor than talent could ever be.

Act Two: Mistakes are acceptable around here.

I believe the scariest thing about doing something new is screwing up. Well, unfortunately, when it comes to learning there is not in the whole world a tool more powerful than making mistakes. As a student of Italian, my teachers have always encouraged me to try and make the leap in forming new sentences and pronouncing words. The common ground was always that I could read and do homework all I want, but I will never fully learn until I make a mistake and have them correct it for me. At work as well, I have messed up plenty at the beginning, but the world never came crashing down and I was not fired. I just got to learn the proper way of doing certain things and what not to do in the future as well.

Act Three: Curiosity Never Really Killed The Cat.

This is probably my favorite concept of them all. Be curious. Ask questions. As long as they are purposeful questions, no one who is a good boss or teacher will be annoyed if you ask and show genuine interest to learn. In fact, they would rather have you ask than to make the same mistake over and over again. Also, asking questions proves that you are a diligent┬áperson who will not just try to “wing it” when faced with an issue. It also shows that you are a brave and responsible person who can recognize that they do not know everything.

About Abdurahman "Al"

Hey, name is Abdurahman Basha, but you can call me Al. I'm a sophomore majoring in finance and entrepreneurship. I do a little bit of everything and try to learn as I go. I enjoy coffee, cooking, photography, Tumblr, and the TV show Friends. I blog about how to survive and make the most out of college outside a 4.0 GPA.

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