Practicing Being a Beginner

This is a translated version of Ko’s fourth essay of a series “Where Does the Courage to Take On Challenges Come From?”

Beginner driver sign

In recent months, I’ve faced many fears. At a recent event, “Second Hand Books Station,” my partner and I reintroduced vegan sandwiches after a long time. Despite preparing all the ingredients beforehand, I had a sleepless night before the event. I was anxious about ruining the food and disappointing our customers. Why was I so scared of something I’d been making for a year and a half before closing my restaurant? Even small actions make me overthink sometimes.

This overthinking brings me to the theme of this letter. Like the saying that a motto is actually a pledge to remember what you’re not good at, I thought of the question, “Where does courage for challenges come from?” Not because I’m a master of challenges, but because I easily get intimidated by unfamiliar tasks. I envy those who stay composed in uncertain situations. I want to move forward with a light heart like them. To me, those who don’t feel anxious in unfamiliar situations are the most courageous people.

Reflecting on my past challenges, I realized I was always trembling with fear. In other words, I had the courage to throw myself into unknown situations despite the fear. Tasks that felt comfortable didn’t remain as challenges in my memory, no matter how difficult or successful they were.

Just as getting hit multiple times doesn’t stop it from hurting, summoning courage for challenges is always hard. Yet, some people decide to step into the ring, knowing it will hurt. They choose to take uncertain steps, even if change doesn’t feel entirely pleasant. These people make decisions as if they’ve never felt fear. They know how to handle their choices.

True courage isn’t a shield that protects us from anxiety in unfamiliar situations but the willingness to be committed to decisions despite knowing they’ll cause fear and anxiety. Because there are far more unknowns than knowns, we often become scared beginners. So, we must welcome the chances to be beginners again.

Of course, I’m still scared of what’s coming. I worry if I’ll do well and fear my efforts will go unnoticed. If someone like me tries to handle everything, I might get exhausted drifting between ideals and reality. So, I aspire to become someone who decides to act. Even at ninety, I want to be more excited than afraid of an unknown fruit, to walk a new path home, and to be okay with being a fool in front of new gadgets. I promise. I won’t stop practicing the mindset of becoming a beginner.