The Two Time Rule

Posted on Dec 11, 2011 in Life, the Universe, and Everything | 0 comments

I live by a set of vague rules, policies that are not set in stone but that I think are good for me. Like my 24-hour waiting period before sending impulsively written e-mails, or never hanging up the phone on anyone regardless of how angry I might be. But one of my favorites is my “Two Time Rule.” And the rule is: If I try something once and hate it, I absolutely have to try it a second time.

I like to try new things – one of my favorite habits is taking up other people’s hobbies. When I meet someone new and learn about the things they enjoy, invariably I find myself trying them out, too. This is how I ended up in a bowling league, took up rock climbing, learned to play the cello, spent a year as a gym rat working on my bench press. It’s a great way not only to learn new things, but also to get to know people. Sure, not everything I try sticks (I haven’t touched a cello or a bench press in some time now). But if I wasn’t willing to try all these things I wouldn’t have found the things that I love to do.

But being willing to try something and willing to give it a real chance are two completely different things. And hence the two time rule – it’s easy to try something once and dismiss it, but by giving it a second chance it’s possible to get a whole new perspective on it. And my argument for this is twofold:

  • The learning curve – learning something new is never easy and so the first try might be discouraging and leave you reluctant to go back. But when you try it a second time, you probably still won’t be good at this new thing, but hopefully you will see improvement. And that’s always encouraging – the sense that it’s worth keeping at it.
  • The culture shock – when you’re trying something new, you’re thrown into a foreign environment. I like to think of it as a new culture – you have to learn etiquette (like wiping down your treadmill after sweating all over it at the gym) and process (like my ballet class which always starts at the barre and progresses through a predictable series of exercises). It’s sort of like going to France and learning that you eat the bread during the meal rather than beforehand. And when you’ve learned the nuances of a new environment you adjust to that and become more comfortable. Only then can you really pass judgment as to whether this is an activity you will enjoy in the long run.

My latest potential hobby is swing dancing. And when I met the guy who took me to my first swing dance, I told him that he couldn’t pay me to try it. It’s intimidating in concept. I’ve never done any type of social dancing, I don’t consider myself a particularly coordinated person, and it just seemed like something I would fail at. Then I watched some Youtube videos of swing dancing, talked to some people who do it (and assured me anyone can do it), I decided to try it out. Nothing to lose, right?

So I went to my first swing dance – Swing City right here in Pittsburgh. Already apprehensive, I took the lesson before the dance, found myself awkward and uncoordinated, and spent the rest of the dance on the sidelines geeky-kid-in-middle-school style. It would have been easy to dismiss it then and there and never go back.

But yesterday, I did in fact go back. Once again I took the lesson at the beginning and this time it was easier. My feet remembered what to do and I could focus on the turns and my partner. A different instructor was teaching it, giving slightly different tips that made it all seem to come together.

And when the actual dance started, I had the time of my life. People were friendly, I got asked to dance, had some great conversations, and the more experienced dancers took me for whirling rides of turns and moves I never thought I would be able to do. Improvement! Encouraging! And this time I discovered for myself what I have been told before – it’s not just about dancing, it’s about connecting with people in an environment where the whole purpose is to have fun. This time, I believe them.

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