Feeling stupid and feeling badass go hand in hand – and it’s the ONLY way to mastery


Want to master a new skill? Want to feel cool about something? Then you’ll need to get comfortable feeling stupid first. And here’s why.

Recently I got a DM on Instagram from one of my followers. She sent me the following message:

“Hi Olena! It’s probably a silly question, but I’m afraid that if I do something outside of my comfort zone, if I decide to challenge myself, I’ll end up screwing something up and will feel stupid. Do you ever feel that way?”

And the short answer is YES – it happens all the time!

In fact, I strongly believe that feeling stupid and feeling bold and cool are two sides of the same coin – it means that you are willing to learn something, willing to try something you’ve never tried before. And of course, at first you will have no idea what you’re doing.

But in my opinion, that is the ONLY way to mastery.

And I have the perfect story to tell you that illustrates it.

As some of you know, I moved to the United States from Ukraine in April of 2017. When I lived in Ukraine, I didn’t really drive a car. I had my driver’s license back from 2010, but honestly I don’t even know how I passed driving exam since I definitely didn’t know how to drive.

When I was planning my move to California, I knew that I would need to start driving a car, so right before me and my daughter moved to Los Angeles I took a 3-week express driving course.

After we moved, I bought my first car. I got used to driving fairly quickly, but I was still new to it.

Driving out of my comfort zone

In October of the same year (6 months after the move), me and Dasha went to Hawaii for vacation. We flew to Maui for a full week. I had planned a very busy itinerary for us – we were gonna stay at 3 different Airbnb’s in different parts of the island, we were planning to explore the island, and so I knew I needed to rent a car for that trip.

When we got to Maui, we headed to the car rental place and got our car. Of course, it had to be a Mustang convertible – the ultimate tourist car in Hawaii. We got in the car, I put down the roof and I felt very cool. My daughter was sitting in the backseat, and we were ready to drive from the parking lot.

As we were leaving the parking lot, I noticed that the car was driving kinda funny. Something just didn’t feel right. It wasn’t driving smoothly, and on top of that something was beeping and there was a red sign blinking on the dashboard.

Whenever something red is blinking, it means that something is not right.

A thought crossed my mind for a second that maybe the parking brake was on. But then I immediately told myself that if that had been the case the car would not be driving at all. So I kept driving.

It kept blinking and beeping, and also I started smelling something burning.

At that point I knew that something was definitely not right, and I had no idea what it was. I needed help.

When we stopped at the next traffic light, I got out of my car and rushed to the car behind me. I asked the driver of that car to come help me and figure out what was going on.

The guy was very kind. He came over, looked at the dashboard and immediately told me that the parking brake was on.

I felt SO embarrassed.
I felt SO stupid.

I thanked him, turned off the parking brake, and suddenly a miracle happened. Things stopped blinking and beeping, and the car started driving really well. No kidding, right?

I felt terrible. I felt so embarrassed. I’m sure that guy thought that I was some crazy stupid tourist who had no idea what she was doing.

But, we were on the road, things were okay, and I was kinda laughing because that was all I could do at that time.

Take the leap and be proud

About an hour later, we got to our first Airbnb. It was a nice guesthouse on the estate property owned by a very kind couple, husband and wife.

Very nice people in their 50s or 60s, when we arrived, they came to greet us. We were chatting, they were asking where we were from, and I was telling them that we lived in Los Angeles and that we’d moved 6 months ago from Ukraine.

And they told me, ” Your parents must be so proud of you.”

I asked, “Why?

They said, “Well, look at you. You are a girl from Ukraine who moved to another side of the world. You did something very brave. And here you are on vacation in Hawaii. You rented a car, you are an independent woman, it’s you and your daughter, you are doing whatever you want and you seem to be doing really well for yourself. You look like a very successful person!

And I thought to myself, “Yeah, that is actually true!

I was doing really well for myself. I did do something that many people considered crazy. Many people were thinking that I was not just brave, but really crazy for taking that leap and moving to another side of the world to a place where I didn’t know anybody. And on top of that, do it as a single mom with my 5-year-old daughter? Definitely not common.

That conversation made me feel really good about myself.

And here’s the reason why I am telling you this story. In just one day, 2 hours apart, I experienced two completely opposite feelings – feeling stupid and embarrassed, and then feeling cool and bold.

Path towards mastery

And that leads me to a point that feeling stupid and feeling badass are actually two sides of the same coin.

When you feel stupid after trying something that you’ve never tried before, it is because you are challenging yourself. It is because you are taking that leap that many people would consider too scary. It is because you are willing to learn something.

Of course, you cannot expect to be a master in this new thing from the very beginning! Of course, you will suck at first!

There is just no way around it.

But that means you are willing to learn. That means you are brave enough to actually do something that so many people won’t even try because they will be too scared to even begin.

And YOU are not scared to begin.

You went out there, you put yourself out there, and you did it. Yes, maybe you feel stupid because you don’t know what you’re doing today, but by trying today you will actually become an expert in this thing tomorrow.

Yes, I constantly feel stupid. And why? Because I constantly try to do something new, learn something new, challenge myself, become better, and grow – because this is what we are designed for as human beings.

We are not designed to sit still. We are designed to strive for more, to create something, to learn something, to grow. And that requires, at first, not knowing what you’re doing.

Just do it

So, if you are reading this post right now and you are afraid of taking the leap because you worry you’ll feeling stupid – go for it.

Because you are going to learn something very valuable along the way.

If you end up feeling stupid, perfect. It’s going to make a good joke. It’s going to make a good story that you’ll be able to tell your friends and family for years to come. You will be laughing at it like I’m laughing right now telling you this story from 5 years ago.

Yes, that was probably one of the most embarrassing moments of my whole life. But I’m laughing right now telling you this story which means it’s a good story!

And it has definitely taught me something – since then, I would never forget to turn off the parking brake, haha!

So, what is YOUR cool story going to be? And what is it gonna teach you?

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