Ep 238: The Advantages of Being a Beginner

Tom Vanderbilt, author of Beginners, discusses with us how parents can inspire their teenagers to be more confident in trying new things by being lifelong learners themselves. Turns out, being an expert beginner has its advantages!

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Full show notes

As parents, it's easy to get into a rut of only doing things we're already good at, or activities we've been doing for years. Yet our teens are essentially beginners at everything. And sometimes it becomes difficult to encourage them to try new things. Being a beginner can get old quickly—it’s hard work!

One of the biggest challenges parents may face is encouraging their teenager to step outside of their comfort zone. It's easy to get stuck in routines and habits, and teenagers are no exception. The problem is that this can lead to a lack of confidence in trying new things and can hinder their long-term growth and development. This can leave parents—who maybe haven’t been beginners in a long time—unsure of how to best help their teens.

To understand this, I spoke this week with Tom Vanderbilt, author of Beginners: The Joy and Transformative Power of Lifelong Learning.  As a parent himself, Tom found that he was spending a lot of time on the sidelines watching his daughter try new things and learn new skills. It wasn't until he realized that he wasn't doing the same for himself that he decided to become a beginner again. This sparked his journey into exploring the benefits of being a beginner and how it can positively impact parenting.

In our interview, Tom points out it’s important for parents to get out of their ruts and try new things because they are the primary role models for their teenagers. If parents are stuck in their own ways and not willing to try new things, it sends a message to their teens that it's okay to do the same. On the other hand, if parents are willing to step out of their comfort zones and try new things, it shows their teens that it's never too late to learn and grow.

Tom suggests a handful of perspectives and outlooks parents can try to help their teens try new things. First, embrace being a beginner. As parents, sometimes it feels like we have to have all the answers for our kids. But it's okay to not know everything and be a beginner. In fact, embracing being a beginner can be a positive experience for both parents and their teenagers. It can help parents model resilience and perseverance when faced with challenges, and show their teens that it's okay to struggle with something new.

Secondly, Tom says parents can use being a beginner as an opportunity to bond with their teenagers. Taking on challenges together can be a fun and rewarding experience for both parties, and can help parents and teens build stronger relationships. It can also help parents understand the challenges their teenagers face when trying new things, and provide a supportive environment for them to grow and learn. Plus, mustering through a challenge together can create lasting memories and missteps to laugh about together later. 

Being a beginner is not only important for personal growth but also for parenting. By embracing being a beginner and taking on challenges together, parents can inspire their teenagers to be more confident in trying new things and can build stronger relationships with them.

In the interview, we also discussed several other topics, including:
  • The advantages of the beginner’s mindset
  • The importance of the process over the outcome when learning something new
  • Why college students are like kindergartners 
  • How to leverage a growth mindset to overcome fear of failure
It was so fun speaking with Tom, and a blast to learn from Beginners of all kinds in his book! To follow along with what Tom is up to, check out links in his bio. Thanks for listening and we’ll catch you next week. 

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Creators and Guests

Andy Earle
Andy Earle
Host of the Talking to Teens Podcast and founder of Write It Great
Tom Vanderbilt
Tom Vanderbilt
Author: Traffic/You May Also Like/Beginners (@aaknopf @AtlanticBooks)/ speaker @prhspeakers /Contrib. ed: @wireduk, @outsidemagazine. Deets: https://t.co/JVuUolZTjt
Ep 238: The Advantages of Being a Beginner
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