“?Que quiere para su desayuno?” she asked, inches from my face.

I thought as quickly as I could, and managed to haltingly request a piece of toast. “Pan tostado, por favor.” It was the only breakfast food I could remember from Spanish class. It ended up being all I ate for breakfast for the next week.

It was the first of many frustrations I faced that year. And it taught me an important lesson about embracing that terrifying feeling of being way out of my depth.

Do you know that feeling? If you’re doing any kind of content marketing, I’m betting you do.

In this article, we’re going to talk about how to make the most of it.

I curled beneath the covers with a pounding headache each of the first few nights I spent in Bogota.

Trying to think and speak in another language was physically painful. Of the six Americans going through exchange student orientation that year, my Spanish was the worst of the bunch.

Those first weeks I spoke like a four-year-old. It was excruciating, especially for someone who took pride in her communication skills.

Despite the painful beginning, I learned a valuable lesson that year. It didn’t have anything to do with the Spanish language. It had to do with losing my fear of looking like a fool.

Public humiliation and newfound courage

If you’ve ever tried to make yourself understood in a language you’re just learning, you’ll know what I mean.

You’re proficient in your native language, but to learn a new one you need to start from the beginning. You have to be willing to speak like a toddler for a while.

Once you’ve learned some basic vocabulary, you might begin to speak like a young child. All the while, you mangle words, raise eyebrows, and send people into fits of laughter several times a day.

It’s the public humiliation aspect of learning a new language that no one ever mentions. You’ve mastered your own language, but to master a new one you have to be willing to look like a fool for a while.

And when you realize you can tolerate the laughter and the raised eyebrows, you gain courage you can apply to every aspect of your life.

A fool with a tool

Fast forward … let’s say “many years.” As a content marketer, I’ve realized that the courage to make a fool of myself in public is incredibly useful.

The internet is a decidedly public venue to make beginner mistakes in, but the only way to become an experienced content marketer is to be a beginning content marketer for a while.

You publish a draft post by mistake. You send out a link that doesn’t work. You discover — too late — that you’ve left out a crucial piece of information.

The only way to get past content marketing mistakes is to make them in the first place.

And it all happens in public. But each failure gets us closer to success, even if the only thing we learn is what doesn’t work.

A learner’s mind is fearless

Children are wired to learn, which is why they make such huge developmental strides in their first years of life. In the space of a year, they go from unable to hold themselves upright to running, from crying to expressing their needs quite clearly.

They fall, shed a few tears, pick themselves up, and keep going. They don’t worry about what people will think — they don’t give it a thought. All the while, they’re learning and making great progress.

As content marketers, we can also apply this attitude to the new skills we’re learning. We can expect mistakes and embrace them when they happen. We can pick ourselves up, brush ourselves off, put our chins up, and keep going.

How to shorten the learning curve

Content marketing, social media, and online business represent great opportunities for us. You can avoid some of those beginner mistakes by studying them before you start doing them.

But you can’t vault yourself from beginner to expert just by reading about them. You have to take the first steps, and prepare for the inevitable bumps and bruises that come with making real progress.

It’s the only way to learn, really. And it’s the only way to get past plain toast for breakfast every day.

Get support, skills, and encouragement while you learn

Authority is our advanced content marketing training program. It’s where we teach all content marketers — from beginners to experienced — what’s working now.

Find out more about Authority

Editor’s note: The original version of this post was published on October 8, 2010.


  1. Michael Pedzotti says

    Wise words indeed Pamela. Being prepared to make mistakes is perhaps the most powerful tool in a learner’s toolbox. As with all tools however, it is only powerful if used. Mistakes are usually made when attempting to do something new, such as your struggle with a new language. Keeping the tool in the toolbox for fear of failing will guarantee failure.
    Reading about how to be successful online is safe and to some extent, comforting. Getting out there and giving is a go is scary but that is, as you say, where the real learning begins.

  2. Pamela Wilson says

    “Reading about how to be successful is comforting.” So true!
    But only when we embrace the discomfort of doing something we haven’t mastered yet will we ever really learn. Thanks for this comment.

  3. Steve Churchill says

    I share a lot of these sentiments. Wrote about it some time ago on my own site:http://betterlearningbetterearning.com/posts/learning-tools/100-learn-blogging-skills-money.html

  4. Pamela Wilson says

    Nice! It’s a different twist on the idea: thanks for sharing it, Steve.

  5. [email protected] All Answers says

    Hi Pamela,
    Nice article. Very true that the learner’s mind is fearless. It is like a computer on a “learning” mode. Whatever comes up, you stay high, console yourself and tell yourself that this is a stepping stone. I have had many such instances. This article helps me to reflect on.
    Thanks for writing.

  6. Ana Luiza says

    Excellent post, and it’s really what I needed to read today – thank you!
    As a language teacher, I particularly enjoyed the Bogotá story, and I often use children as an example to illustrate to my ESL students how a lack of mental blockage can turn language acquisition into something more natural and less painful (not to mention way more efficient). Some people will tell me they think they’re not intelligent enough to pick up a second language, and reminding them of how they did become fluent in their native Portuguese as kids has really helped them.

  7. Mike Korner says

    I love this: “A learner’s mind is fearless”!

  8. Shane Arthur says

    As a former computer instructor, I can say with certainty the learner’s brain is crucial. Without it, people won’t learn.
    In each class I would ask, “By the end of this class you all will master this material, right?” They would reply, “I hope so,” or similar phrases of doubt and failure.
    I’d tell them they must believe they will master what they desire to master. I’d tell them not to rely on me, to print out those boring help files, to read them multiple times, to go online and study, and to teach what they learned to someone who knew even less than they did(by far the best way to learn).
    I would ask them to imagine a person they hated; to imagine this person laughing and telling them they’d never succeed. Ninety percent would understand and buckle down to defeat this imagined foe (Ten percent would continue to play solitaire, but I digress).
    Embrace the learner brain, AND the warrior inside.
    Learn or die!

  9. Sonia Simone says

    And IMO the biggest obstacle to learning (and you see it all the time when non-tech people are trying to pick up a techology) is the fear of feeling silly. It just shuts people’s minds down.

  10. Shane Arthur says

    Indeed. I had a guy in my computer basics class with a phobia of computers (no joke, it was bad). Boy, did he pick the wrong(right) class.
    I unplugged all the plugs to the monitor, computer, mouse, and keyboard. The students wondered what in the hell was going on. I told them they are here to learn computers and most likely when they bought a computer they would be calling someone like me to help them plug everything in, so what better way to teach computer basics that to replicate what they’d see when the computers arrive. I made everyone open the computer lid, too, and watch as I explained what everything inside was.
    The phobic man hesitated at first, but by the end of the class he was offering assistance to another person in class trying to reattach the computer lid. One of my fondest memories. He found his warrior.

  11. Daniel Edlen says

    “No black boxes,” the teacher of the hardest electrical engineering course, the hardest course, I took would say constantly. It’s why babies, well mine anyway, turns everything over to see how it works, finds the speaker on her toys to feel where the sound is coming from, explores incessantly, and all the while, yes, not caring that I’m marvelling at every move.

  12. Shane Arthur says

    Children are the best music (and teachers), huh!

  13. Michael says

    Thanks for sharing.It is strange but I have been thinking about this issue in recent times.It’s about the law of sequencing and the power of… just doing it.In the final analysis,we can only learn by DOING.

  14. Stacey @ Tree, Root, and Twig says

    This would make a fantastic panel discussion at a blogging conference. I think too many bloggers feel lost and overwhelmed at the beginning. Thanks for sharing such insightful encouragement!

  15. Pamela Wilson says

    There’s a lot to feel overwhelmed by! And you get to be lost and overwhelmed in public: eek! But it’s not a perpetual state, thankfully…

  16. Patricia says

    I feel so much better now! I’m an experienced writer but JUST launched my first blog yesterday, and I’ve been a nervous wreck since. It was so hard to push the publish button the first time but I figured if I didn’t do the first post, I’d never get to the second!

  17. Pamela Wilson says

    It does get easier: I promise. Congratulations on your first post, Patricia.

  18. Pamela Wilson says

    Shane, I’ll bet you were a great teacher!
    My sister did her doctoral thesis on the benefits of cooperative learning: the concept that teaching others is the best way to learn. I don’t know as much as she does, but I do know from experience that communicating what you know is a great way to cement it in your mind.
    And yes: learner-warriors FTW!

  19. Shane Arthur says

    I’m a big fan of the imagined foe approach. And, yes, teaching to learn is a fantastic method.
    Without fail a student would ask a question that I didn’t know how to answer. Following my own warrior approach, I would say, “That’s a great question. I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you that by tonight I WILL know it and email it to you.”
    ps. I got a $12,000 raise within 4 months of starting. Just sayin’. ????

  20. Pamela Wilson says

    Wowza! That’s impressive, and I’m sure your attitude had a lot to do with it.

  21. Shane Arthur says

    As you can tell by how many times I’m commenting, I’m passionate about teaching/learning.
    Attitude is everything.
    My mother quit smoking, cold-turkey, after 35 years. She said, “I made up my mind to quit.” All the quit-smoking drugs, all the therapy methods — none worked. “Making up” her mind did.
    She basically said, “Quit or die.” Thus, learn or die is my mantra.

  22. Patrick Garmoe says

    Great post Pamela! I think you’ve hit on a key concept that keeps most people from learning something new: embarrassment. I know exactly how you feel with Spanish as well. I attribute my frustration with trying to learn Spanish directly to my lack of willingness to look stupid. I’ve always been introverted, so it was extremely hard for me to do things publicly I knew would make me look dumb.
    I’d also think people are held back because they think that once they graduate from college, the learning stops. They don’t picture themselves having to stumble along for quite a while before using Twitter effectively, as you mentioned in your example. I read Twitter Power twice, and stumbled around a good six months before getting the hang of it, and only recently really managed to slowly eek my way into becoming somewhat of an effective user of it. But hey, it’s paid off, I can attribute receiving about $10,000 in free TV advertising to my use of Twitter at @Garmoe.
    Life is about constantly learning, trying, and failing, and learning again. Let’s remember that Michael Jordan didn’t even make his high school basketball team. Lucky for all of us, he didn’t let awkwardness at the beginning define his future.

  23. Pamela Wilson says

    Well, and the whole social media space is so darn … public, isn’t it? That’s the beauty and the curse of it. But you know, we’re all learning it together for the most part since it still pretty new. So you’re in good company, Patrick!

  24. Patrick Garmoe says

    Yep. I’ve always been impressed by how genuinely nice people online tend to be, in trying to assist others as they learn. Those who write and comment on this blog are a perfect example of that.

  25. Ngozi Nwoke says

    Hi Pamela.
    I enjoyed this post. Being afraid of failure will never give us success. Making a mistake and learning from it is better than doing nothing. There are many people with great potentials, but because they are afraid of failing, they never get to accomplish anything.
    Best is to have a learner’s mind, learn from your mistakes and become a guru tomorrow.
    Thanks for sharing.

  26. Steven H says

    Fantastic post Pamela. In Zen Buddhism they call it “Beginner’s Mind.” It’s a really useful state of being no matter what you are learning. Even if you have played baseball for years and years, going into a game with “Beginner’s Mind” keeps you in a constant state of engagement and curiosity. Instead of becoming more and more set in our ways, we learn the quirks of others, what works for them, what doesn’t, and we can constantly adapt our own technique and style. I don’t want to ever lose my Learner’s Mind.

  27. Sonia Simone says

    Indeed, Suzuki Roshi would have made a good blogging teacher.

  28. Mary E. Ulrich says

    Sounds like you learned a lot more than Spanish on your trip.
    Learning is fearless is a great line. Accepting failure as part of learning is another tough lesson.

  29. Sonia Simone says

    It’s so interesting to me that you chose struggling with a second language to illustrate this, because it really does bring that state of mind into such sharp relief. I speak French well, but I still struggle with that resistance to feeling dumb. It’s a different kind of bravery than what we normally think about.

  30. Pamela Wilson says

    What I found so informative about the experience is that — for the most part — people are so pleased that you are making the effort to learn their language. You may feel like a fool, but they’re not really thinking that about you. (OK, except when you say something really funny).

  31. Sonia Simone says

    That’s totally true. Even, though people don’t think it is, among the French.

  32. Renee Malove says

    I find what you run into a lot is that English is such a universal language that many travelers and tourists don’t bother to attempt the native language, not seriously. They just repeat what they need in English, over and over again, until they find someone that can understand them. It’s known as the arrogance of Americans. So if you’re willing to try, most of them are willing to let you…until you really goof up and they smile and say, “I speak English.”

  33. Pamela Wilson says

    Exactly! Just attempting it makes you stand out from the rest.

  34. Kathy Condon says

    Opened my email this morning and smiled as I read your blog. No question what you have written is true for me…More than once a blog went out with a mistake….I finally got it — better let my editor look at it first. I learned.
    Now I am writing copy and posting on my new website…after many people reading it I discovered a line with “of of”– mistakes happen and the more involved we are the more we will make. Yes, accept the fact that you ALWAYS learning.

  35. MaKenzie Birchell says

    Great analogy; look how many people can relate to your intro! I can also empathize, having lived in Spain for a few month–amazing how entering a different environment can suddenly make you bad at something you always thought you were good at! The same definitely does go with writing, and you provided fantastic examples. Thanks so much for a great read and a great lesson we can all take with us!

  36. GREAT advice Pamela – and not just for blogging but for business in general.
    If we just put something out there and treat it as a learning experience we will achieve so much more than if we wait until things are perfect (they never are!). And with the the internet we can just change and improve things at the click of a button – good stuff
    Hasta luego !

  37. Kalvin Chen says

    Great article Pamela! “A learner’s mind IS fearless.” The beauty of being a child is they haven’t established ego or awareness to care about what anyone thinks. It is acceptable for children to fall, get up and try again without judgment. Everyone around them is usually encouraging and supportive.
    Unfortunately as we become adults, we become more of a critic. We care more about what others and the world thinks of us, which hinders our ability to take strides when learning. People take awareness in everything they think, say, or act.
    Of course, there are always a handful of people who embrace a “learner’s mind.” I have much respect for those who approach learning with “fearlessness” and who “don’t give it a thought.” It’s a mirror to help me constantly be aware, learn, and improve myself without caring what others think. Your article was a good refresher for me. Thanks!

  38. Pamela Wilson says

    I’m not there yet, believe me Kalvin. But it’s something to aspire to, that’s for sure. Thanks for your comment.

  39. Nancy Meadows says

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Pamela. I am definately a “baby Chick.” A chick who suffers “analysis paralyasis.” Your post came exactly when I most needed it!

  40. Very nice article Pamela. I think it’s important for those learning any new skill to realize that everyone goes through growing pains, especially when learning a new language. If it were easy, we would all be fluent in French, Spanish, Japanese, etc.

  41. Pamela Wilson says

    … and fluent in blogging, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. If it were easy!

  42. Renee Malove says

    I’m glad to see you’ve mastered the art of learning another language,sounding like an idiot! I was very, very blessed to learn spanish in the warmest of learning environments, in a restaurant where 90% of the employees barely spoke english and they thought my halting spanish, mispronunciations and inability to say “aeropuerta” were the funniest things on the planet! It’s not as bad as it sounds, we were able to, through an incredible amount of sign language, pictures drawn on newspapers and conversations that looked more like charades, learn together, be patient with each other’s mistakes and create an atmosphere where it was okay to admit you needed something and didn’t have a clue how to ask for it!
    To this day I struggle to remember advanced grammer, but I can say “Pass me some bacon please” like a native!
    Now that I have children, teaching them that you’re going to look like a fool while you’re learning is one of the hardest parts of the process. Kids are cruel. Guess what? So are readers. And customers. If you’re not willing to fall down, get laughed at and let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back, you’re never going to succeed.

  43. Daniel Edlen says

    It’s funny, but I used to be paralyzed with fear at the thought of looking stupid. I had to give the valedictorian speech at my high school graduation, with echo that was added the day of. Holy smokes! Now I just am paralyzed with fear at the thought of looking stupid to myself. I don’t worry about what others think. So when I’m ready, when *I’m* ready, I do it. Like putting up the new http://danieledlen.com this week. Just did it. I’m happy, up it goes. Putting it out there. “Shipping” as Seth, et al. say. And with commenting? Shoo. Watch me ramble!
    Great post.

  44. Tessa Shepperson says

    I think with social media and internet we have to accept that we are always learning, as it is constantly changing. That is part of its appeal.
    How you feel about making mistakes is an attitude of mind. If you accept that you will do something stupid from time to time and can laugh about it, people will probably be with you. You feel most stupid if you have been a bit pompous about how brilliant you are, and the then make a humdinger of a mistake.

  45. Naomi Niles says

    Ha, this reminds me of the first few years I lived in Spain. One time, I needed some stuff at the grocery store for killing cockroaches and had to ask for help. I said, “Estoy buscando la cosa para asesinar los cucarachas”, which is literally, “I’m looking for that thing to murder cockroaches”. Everyone got a good laugh at that for awhile. Called me the cockroach murderer.
    I think everyone should live in a foreign country that’s not their native language for a year. Definitely humbles you.

  46. Pamela Wilson says

    Between you and me, if I see a cockroach, I don’t want to kill it. I want to asesinarlo. I think you got it just right!

  47. Alvin Makoani says

    We all begin with baby steps. It’s that way of life. With new things coming up everyday, one cannot be blamed for a little ignorance. So long as you are willing to learn mistakes, failures etc. are a good thing.

  48. Great post. Fear not. Learn more.
    I’m going to order my lunch in Spanish today. No, I’m serious… this post inspired me to speak Spanish at the taco stand. Before I was embarrassed about sounding like a fool but not today. If the experience is interesting enough, I’ll share it here in a follow up comment.
    Gracias para las palabras!

  49. Shane Arthur says

    @Pamela: P.S. “El queso está viejo y pútrido. ¿Dónde está el sanitario?”

  50. Pamela Wilson says

    I’m not going to ask where you had to put that into use! (The cheese is old and rotten. Where is the bathroom?) :-0

  51. Arun Kumar says

    Like you mentioned, one really needs to dive in, and make an attempt without caring much about the outcome. Because no matter what the outcome is, you tend to gain something from the effort that would have gone into it.
    Other important point mentioned in the post that everyone should follow is that the progression from beginner to expert comes about not only by simply reading others mistakes but also by committing it and learning from it.
    A very useful post! Reading this helped me with losing my fear of looking like a fool

  52. Stacey Cornelius says

    I learned to drive a 5-speed at age 37. Not something I’d want in the memoirs, but I finally figured it out. Really appreciated the guys sitting outside the welding shop in the industrial park “cheering” me on.
    Now my biggest asset is a much more developed sense of humour. I still screw up on Twitter sometimes, and occasionally insert keyboard into mouth trying to make a pithy comment on someone’s post. I cringe, shake my head, laugh at my clumsiness as much as I can, and move on. Lesson learned (for the most part).
    It’s all a work in progress.
    Nicely done, as always, Pamela.

  53. Theresa Coligan says

    Thank you for this post.
    I most definitely need to find my inner child when it comes to learning internet marketing. I’ve been tweeting, blogging and article marketing for several months now and, as you put it, coming home “empty-handed.”
    At times it can be really demoralising if you focus on that side of it too much. Looking at the positives, however, I am learning loads (though there does seem one heck of a lot to learn!), I am gaining experience by just being out there doing it; and I know that Rome wasn’t built in a day!
    I very much hope it will all be worth it
    Thanks again

  54. Pamela Wilson says

    Keep the faith, Theresa!

  55. [email protected] says

    Hi Pamela, this is too true. I think as we grow older, our self-consciousness also increases to a point where fears and self-doubts paralyze us. I used to know a little girl who performed music since she was 2-3. She was so care-free at that time. Her singing and performance were natural. Now she is 16 or 17 and still sing, but her performance becomes awkward. When being interviewed, she confirmed that now she thinks more of what other people thought of her, unlike when she was young when she only did what she felt like and didn’t care about anyone’s opinions. I think fears of failure and of looking like a fool are setbacks of being grown-ups. I love that care-free attitude of babies and I believe we need that to be successful in whatever endeavor we choose. Failure is the mother of success. Thus, may be, looking like a fool is a necessary first step of mastering anything.

  56. This is great. When I first started blogging and tweeting, I had no idea what I was doing, but if I didn’t get started, I would never have any idea what I was doing.
    Three months later, I’m started to get the hang of things a little bit. It’s possible that I made a fool of myself at one point or another, but it was worth it. It’s important to remember that making mistakes isn’t the problem, not learning from them is.
    To get started with blogging and such, you just have to take the leap. Eventually you figure it out. And if you don’t, oh well. At least you tried.
    Great post! Thanks, Pamela!

  57. Pamela Wilson says

    I love this: “making mistakes ins’t the problem, not learning from them is.” So true! Good luck with your new blog, Joseph.

  58. Thanks, Pamela. I’m still pretty new, but I’m hoping to someday guest blog about 10 lessons that bloggers can learn from construction workers. One of the points is about wearing a hard hat. Bloggers have to wear a “hard hat” and not worry about mistakes or criticism.
    Thanks again for the post. I’m glad you liked the comment.

  59. elaine! says

    That’s the big lesson I learned from my high school foreign exchange trip, too — once you get over your fear of looking like an idiot, you make exponential progress! And you also end up with some pretty hilarious stories to tell people too. It’s incredibly liberating.
    You also eventually come to realize that you’re not as foolish as you think you are. A lot of the times, if you do something you think is totally dumb, if you don’t point it out… nobody notices. ????
    Thanks for the reminder. It’s a great lesson that has gotten progressively more buried in my mind since my trip.

  60. Great humbling advice Pamela. I try and suspend narcissism when endeavoring a new project. It’s sad when so many talented and capable people feel that if the outcome isn’t perfect, it’s too scary.
    Also, a good sense of humor helps immensely ????
    Thanks for the reminder that life is a perpetual learning ground.

  61. Nicole : Three By Sea says

    LOVED this post! So true about business, and life itself. I love watching my two-year-old son’s trials and errors and see how he continues on, or giving him the encouragement he needs to try again. As for myself, I’m discovering that one of the benefits of getting older is that I less afraid of appearing silly or foolish.
    As this all relates to business, I’ve recently come to some major realizations about my fledgling little business, causing me to backtrack, in a matter of speaking, so I can take a different path- one that might actually get me where I want to go. But I see it as being better than sitting at a dead end or continuing to go the wrong way because you’re too afraid to turn around and ask for directions!

  62. Joan A Hamilton says

    Fear of looking stupid comes from feelings of poor self regard. Those inner doubts about whether you are good enough, smart enough, creative enough… the list goes on. Fear of looking delusional, as in: ‘ it is delusional of me to believe that I have anything worthwhile to offer.’
    Most people have these inner fears to some extent, and it takes courage to conquer them and be able to expose themselves publically in blogs and social media.
    The willingness to admit you don’t know everything, that the things you are blogging about are part of a learning process for you, gives you all kinds of freedom.
    The most important being: the freedom to be true to who you are and to believe in what you are doing. I have found that when this element of truth is missing from someone’s writing that it shows, no matter how good the message or how slick the webpage.
    Blogging with a Learner’s Mind touches all the points any blogger who seriously put their heart into it experience with every post written. The only way this gets any easier to do, is by doing it…regularly. This is not to say you shouldn’t continue to study the ways of blogging, just remember to be true to yourself and not be afraid to let the world in on how you tick. The degree to which you do this is another subject altogether!
    Someone summed up three words that I try to remember as I blog. I’m sorry I didn’t keep the link to reference, but they ended up on a Sticky Note on my desktop…bad form I know, but here they are: Educate, Entertain, and Engage.
    Perhaps we should add Expose to the top of the list. Too bad the word has such negative connotations! lol! Thanks for the great post which accomplished all four for me!

  63. Pamela Wilson says

    Thanks for this thoughtful comment, Joan. You are absolutely right: when a writer isn’t being true to themselves it shows. Their writing is flat and hard to relate to.
    It’s tough to put your heart into your writing and put it out there for everyone to see, but I agree 100% that it gets easier over time. Plus, it’s the only way you can interact with the awesome people you find in the comments section of a blog like this!

  64. Mike Korner says

    Joan, I believe those wise words, “Educate, Entertain, and Engage”, came from this post: http://www.copyblogger.com/blog-like-shakespeare/

  65. Joan A Hamilton says

    Don’t think so Mike because the post I refer to definitely had the three words Educate, Entertain and Engage in it!

  66. Mike Korner says

    Isn’t that it under the last subheading: The wheel has come full circle?
    “Blogging is a new medium, sure, but it’s a medium by which we express, educate, entertain, and engage people.”

  67. Joan A Hamilton says

    Oops sorry Mike – I missed that! Thought I read to the end of the post, but hadn’t evidently!
    Hey it’s Friday and a long w/e Thanksgiving coming up! Happy Thanksgiving to all you Canadian bloggers and blog readers and anyone else who may celebrate a festival this weekend!

  68. Marlene Hielema says

    Great post!
    I’m LOLing about the Twitter part. I do recall I flubbed up several RT’s and such when I was first learning how to use Twitter, and I believe several were with your Tweets Pamela!
    Here’s another dumb thing I did. Couldn’t figure out why my DM’s would not work, but then realized you actually have to choose a recipient. That frustrated me for a long time.
    The pain (and embarrassment) of making mistakes usually stops us from repeating them (too many times.)

  69. Pamela Wilson says

    Twitter isn’t exactly intuitive, is it? I think we all have to make mistakes there until we figure it out. Luckily it’s like throwing a leaf into a moving stream … it floats away and is out of sight soon enough.

  70. Thank you Pamela
    Definitively a “rare” post, very refreshing and encouraging for a newbie like me. I’ve been reading other blogs and they only write about success… I wonder if they ever took the first steps??!!
    By the way, I’m a native Spanish speaker who learned English the hard way

  71. Keith O'Brien says

    “You can’t vault yourself from beginner to expert by reading about it.”
    Unfortunately, there are a ton of internet marketers who teach people that you can.
    Buy a course. That course says to brand yourself & position yourself as an expert.
    The guy that has been online for 12 hours is all of a sudden an “Internet Marketing Coach.”
    On another note, I think I get stuck in over-thinking many projects and because I am newer on the scene (last 24 months or so), I often get hung up by technology…not knowing where to start or how to complete a project technically.
    I find myself in that dance between learning technical skills which are not my wheelhouse and trying to keep the costs of a project down.

  72. I read you blog everyday with a learner’s mind, great.

  73. Viktor Saldivar says

    Excellent article Pamela; you definitely described my own experiences; one as a non-speaker English language living in a English speaking country, an also as a beginner blogger. After eleven years living in USA, I’m still make a full of myself, I found that’s a clever way to have people around me helping me fixed and improve my English knowledge and pronunciation. The hardest part for me is writing; that’s why I decide to start a blog, trying to force myself to write in a different language. I’m also an Interactive Media student, as part of the course; I have to get a twitter account. Yes, I was one of those beginners too, didn’t understand what a hash tag was, or how to use the [email protected] character. Didn’t even know how to shortened a url. Watching my kids rapidly adapt to “shameless” situations gave me the courage to be like them. Definitely facing my fears of doing or say something wrong is what helped me learn more. Thank you for writing this, that just game the extra push!

  74. Pierre-Yves says

    I recognize myself in what you say, particularly the part where you say that it’s hard to make yourself understood in another language… And what’s funny is that this language, for me, is english.
    I must admit I consider my level better than a four years-old, as I spend my days reading in english, and improving my writing and speaking skills, but for us foreign bloggers, dealing with the Web as english world is a matter of everyday life.

  75. GotChocolate says

    WELL PUT!!! I have learned SO much in the last 1-1/2 years and made, and still make, mistakes.
    Lots more to learn but I LOVE blogging!!!

  76. Well said, We have to fail our way to success! Unfortunately we learn by making mistakes, Thomas Edison discovered many ways an electric light bulb would not work before he discovered the way it would work!
    How’s this, I have written a blog and posted it (I think), no idea where it is and how to check on it, guess I’ll work it out one day. Love to write another one but I’ll have to work out how and where to publish properly!
    best regards Steve

  77. Jef Menguin says

    I am prepared to make more mistakes every day until the day people will call me an expert.
    Thank you for your thoughts.

  78. Eileen O'Neill says

    Great post! As a Business English language consultant for multinational companies, I watch my clients sweat through the “fool factor” as you call it…
    The painful truth is that IS the only way to go to really learn a language – and I agree with you: online, internet, social media – which according to noted English linguisit, David Crystal, are a 5th skill in language learning: computer-mediated-communications, or as it calls it, Net-speak.
    With anything that we just read or reflect about – but do nothing to implement – we are just mind massaging ….
    Thanks for a great post and reflection!

  79. Agree with all of that! Attacking your fears is likely the number one habit of successful people.

  80. Stan Thow says

    I agree and am blogging, face booking and doing twitter.
    I can see the problems and I think I am improving Slowly.
    I still don’t know what subjects to concentrate on.
    i am reading all your blogs on the subject to get better.
    But why did you leave out Face book.

  81. J.D. Meier says

    > submit yourself to looking like a fool while you master the tool.
    Poetic words of wisdom.

  82. Kevin Lee says

    Enjoyed this post. And though I have been blogging daily now for three years, there’s so much new stuff coming along that it always feels like I’m learning new stuff all the time.
    I enjoyed the link to the Twitter article too, which I apparently missed along the way. I’ve had a Twitter account now for well over a year and frankly still don’t know what to think of it much of the time. Maybe I need to post there more regularly, but if I read one more person telling me what they had for lunch I may get ill myself!

  83. Kris Beus says

    You know this post reminds me of when I joined twitter and began asking people how to get more followers. After a year I had a couple thousand and now I am pushing 5k followers. I guess it is mainly a time thing, but you are right if you don’t try there is no way to succeed. Even though I have been blogging for a couple years now I still make stupid mistakes and have a hard time building readers. It is a good thing I love blogging or I would have given up long ago.

  84. thank you so much for this post!….i was in the midst of giving up blogging though i love writing, just because somehow i’m getting lost with the new things i need to learn…sort of discomfort with the new “language”……..but your post really inspired me.

  85. Joe Pelissier says

    You are spot on.
    Recently, I read something very similar by Dan Kennedy who was writing in reference to someone who had studied his stuff for 3 years and who was complaining that they were not financially successful as a result.
    His reply was that you can study all you want but at some point you ‘have to pump the pump’.
    On a personal note, I have spent far too much time studying the success of others and trying to create a fail-safe model.
    It’s not possible…all you do is delay committing the mistakes you will inevitably make. And in delaying this part of the process, you just waste time and money.
    So get pumping!
    Thank you for this post.

  86. Pamela Wilson says

    I agree, Joe. If you want to learn to swim, you’ve got to get in the water and flail around for a while, right?

  87. Shelley Z says

    Just what I needed to read today — thanks so much!
    I definitely need to reclaim my learner’s mind. Although I’m an established “old media” communicator, I’m completely ignorant about new media, and have recently enrolled in a course through Michigan State University (http://www.newmediadl.com ) to wade in. (So if the rabbit hole of tweets, likes, friends, and blogposts doesn’t freeze me in my tracks, being old enough to have given birth to my 150 classmates just might!)
    This is the first comment I’ve ever left…but everything’s going to be a first for me for awhile (here’s the first post to my blog: http://freelancia.blogspot.com). Thanks to your pat-on-the-back, kick-in-the-pants, I have a much better mindset about the mistakes that lay just around the corner.

  88. Rory Wood says

    Hey Shelley, just wanted to let you know it appears the link to your blog is out of order. I had to copy paste directly to get to the appropriate page.
    I really like the approach for your blog by the way. As a new writer I’ll be interested in seeing how your blog develops. I hope to see an experience free lancers perspective on transitioning into a digital space.

  89. Pamela Wilson says

    Shelly, I think your comment just made my day!
    My mom went to one semester of college right out of high school, got married, started having children and never finished. While I was in high school, she went back to college. She and I had a graduation party together: me from high school, and her from college.
    She experienced the same weird sensation of feeling like she could be the parent of all her classmates. But she found a few people who treated her as an equal and accepted her as she was, and she’s still friendly with them all these years later.
    So I’m here to tell you it CAN be done, because I saw her do it. And — by the way — she rocked it when it came to grades. There’s nothing like going back to school when you really understand what’s at stake to motivate you to work hard!
    Good luck to you. Thank you so much for leaving your first comment here. It’s an honor!

  90. Ana Samper says

    Great post, Pamela. When were you in Bogota? That’s where I live so it was funny reading your account of your “immersion”.
    I’m thinking that part of the problem with emerging social media is that as adults it’s not so easy to make a fool of yourself in front of your kids and students to whom all this is second nature. You definitely have to just dive in and try it out and get the best out of it. Go Shelley!!!!
    An added benefit as we get older… learning new things – a necessity with technology – is a proven way to promote mental health!!!

  91. Pamela Wilson says

    With that last name, where else could you live? ????
    I was in Bogotá for orientation and then went on to Cali for my exchange year. I was there the year that Gabriel Garcia Marquez won the Nobel prize for literature. Does that help?
    I agree there is a generational divide when it comes to social media, but for our parents that divide is there when it comes to computers.
    It’s interesting to see who is willing to cross the divide and learn the “new language,” and who would rather avoid the whole thing. Sometimes the people I would least expect embrace new technology, and the ones I think are open to change try to avoid it at all costs. It’s very unpredictable!

  92. Sheila Hart says

    Pamela, thank you for writing this. I have been reading, studying, and re-reading about blogging and content marketing for three weeks now. Each day, I tell myself that I am going to actually write something the following day. And when the following day comes, I resort to more reading and researching. It’s like I never feel prepared enough to put myself out there, but you have encouraged me to write my first blog post…right after I read this other article. Just kidding – thanks for the great post!

  93. Pamela Wilson says

    Sheila, I can tell you that the first post is the hardest one to write. Once you get that one out of the way, it gets much easier.
    Even the “putting yourself out there” queasy feeling goes away after a while, especially when you get positive feedback from your readers.
    I think you should go for it! I’m cheering for you!

  94. Rory Wood says

    Good luck, Sheila! I’m about a half step ahead of you and that first post was definitely the hardest. It’s just starting to get fun, although I probably still read/research more than I write.
    One step at a time.

  95. Rory Wood says

    Thanks for posting this, Pamela. I’m starting a journey where I’ll be needing to call a lot of the points you make into practice. Fear is quite an anchor and overcoming that fear is key in growing.
    – Be willing to look silly. Everybody starts somewhere.
    – Be diligent. Practice makes perfect.
    – Welcome failure. You’ll learn more from your failures than you will from your success.
    I’m looking forward to coming back a few more times for a refresher. Again, thank you!

  96. Pamela Wilson says

    Thanks, Rory.
    Fear is indeed an anchor, and it keeps us from exploring all sorts of interesting seas. Good luck on your journey!

  97. Rodrigo says

    Excellent article. I entirely agree with you. These days, when we speak or write about something in our blog, our fear of public humiliation may be even worse as we have the entire Internet to watch us for good or bad. Our challenge is to make our opinion as clear as possible, even when that is not common sense. Thank you for this post!

  98. Robin Kirkley says

    Great timing, Pamela. I’ve just begun the biggest project of my life as an SEO Copywriter, and it’s the scariest thing I’ve ever done. It’s an enterprise level finance company in a third world foreign country with a Board of Directors that comprises local business leaders and a couple of government ministers. Yikes. One of the biggest challenges is the lack of data – I’m forced to be very creative in gathering audience and keyword research. Your article sure gave me encouragement. Thanks.

  99. Pamela Wilson says

    Glad to hear it, Robin!
    Best of luck: the scary jobs are usually the most satisfying ones, too.

  100. Dave Vigna says

    Thanks for reposting this excellent article Pamela. And wonderfully timely, for me, today, as I’m working through a content package and was getting the jitters. Was, that is, until this.

  101. Pamela Wilson says

    Good luck, Dave! Thanks for your comment.

  102. loved reading the post and the tag A learner’s mind is fearless is true…Thanks

  103. Sarkari Naukri says

    This whole article are written for me. & the best line is a fool with tool… ha ha ha…
    Very inspiring

  104. What a profound and authentic blog post. I could relate on all accounts and thoroughly enjoyed it! Loved the analogy. Thank you!

  105. Hammad Saleem says

    Thanks for sharing your experience. It helped me to identify my mental barrier. I am willing to learn more.
    It is my first comment on this blog. I do so because you inspired me.

  106. Michael LaRocca says

    Always let somebody else read your content before your intended audience reads it.

  107. Micheal A says

    Thanks for sharing this. Its really an old post but great and still very useful than ever before. This is the age of digital marketing than it was in 2010 when this post was first published.
    Just like babies, I have made countless numbers of mistakes, but never mind. Just seeking for improvement and am moving on.

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