i think a big thing that disconcerts adults about learning new skills is that learning as an adult means you are very aware of how bad you are at the beginning in a way children aren’t.
i picked up the saxophone when i was 11 and played until i was about 17. by the end of it i was first chair in our highest ensemble, a district honor band player, etc. but at the beginning – and this is important – i was bad. for the first year or so, i had no rhythm, i couldn’t make my tongue line up with my fingers, i was consistently sharp, etc. etc. other kids actually made fun of me for my lack of skill.
but 11 year old me didn’t care. 11 year old me practiced, but she also thought that being able to play the pink panther made her incredible (i shudder in retrospect). i mean, i was aware i wasn’t a master, but my skill level didn’t deter me from wailing out those notes in a way that i’m sure had my band director questioning his career decisions.
right now, i’m trying to pick up the guitar. it’s a very different instrument from the saxophone, and i struggle a lot with things like strumming patterns and barre chords. and sometimes i don’t want to play, because i know i’m bad at guitar. and sometimes i beat myself up when stumbling through a poor acoustic rendition of Everybody Wants to Rule the World because it’s not how i want it to sound. and it’s made even more frustrating because i can navigate the saxophone so smoothly.
but then i remember that i have to think like a kid. i might not be the best at guitar by any stretch of the imagination, but every little bit of progress is still progress. humility is a big part of learning, but if you treat a practice session like your own private concert, it becomes so much more fun, even if you’re bad like i am. when you’re first picking up a skill, whether it be an instrument, or a language, or a fine art, no one is expecting you to be the yo yo ma of that thing. forget about how little you know about the skill and think instead about how much you have to learn – that’s fun! do your best!!