Cordon Bleu pastry chef, Frédéric Hoël, held up two handfuls of dough, one that you could have mistaken for a neatly folded (albeit miniature) sheet in a linen store… the other more closely resembled a half-deflated air mattress that someone tried to fold before it was fully emptied.
“This is good,” he proclaimed, holding the neat stack up high.
“This is bad,” hoisting up the messy pile. “It will not work.” He shook his head darkly.
We giggled nervously and looked around at one another… who among us 12 or so novices had created the failure dough? Who was the phenom? Only time would tell.
Learning as an adult can be hard… humbling, even.
My recent pastry-making class at the Cordon Bleu here in Paris was a good reminder that no beginner is ever good at anything. And before you become good at something, the learning process is a challenge all itself.
Living overseas, there’s a learning curve that can’t be denied, and it’s compounded by all the other things you have to figure out at the same time—as you plan your move you have to learn about residency options, tax consequences, health care and insurance availability… and then once you arrive you also likely have to learn a new language, how to get around in your new home, become familiar with a new culture, be taught how to properly eat a new cuisine… and so much more that you won’t even guess at before arriving.
Plus, there’s just the simple fact that learning later in life is… uncomfortable, at least, if not more difficult. You’re not used to being “bad” at things once you’re an accomplished adult. You’re not used to being a beginner anymore. And, frankly, it’s not the best feeling to be the underdog… to always feel like you’re behind, trying to catch up.
But it does pass—as long as you put in a consistent effort—and bit by bit, you realize you are getting better… that you’re no longer the newbie… that you’re becoming more and more comfortable.
This is true of anything new that we start to do routinely, be it a sport, an art form, a cooking technique, a computer program, a new remote control, a new route to work… etc.
I’ve recently adopted a new life motto:
Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable
So much of what we don’t like in life is simply discomfort. We become used to our routines, our friends, our home, our favorite foods, our way of life… and once we do, we don’t like to try new things. Because it wouldn’t be as easy… it would be uncomfortable. (Hence the proverbial comfort zone.)
In the fitness world, this is called “plateauing.” You do the same workout so much that your body no longer sees it as a workout—it’s no longer a challenge, it’s just an everyday activity. Your body takes it in stride and you cease to lose weight, maybe even put some more back on.
To overcome this inevitable pitfall, any good fitness trainer knows you need to change things regularly. Which doesn’t feel good. You have to push your body to do something it doesn’t usually do, so it feels awkward, it burns, you lose your balance, your joints pop, breathing is difficult… and none of that is desirable in itself.
More than anything, though, it’s just uncomfortable. Because a week later, your body is used to it and you don’t feel the way you did that first day.
You’ve become comfortable being uncomfortable.
Moving overseas will certainly have you uncomfortable plenty of the time—but that’s the whole point of your live-overseas fantasy, isn’t it? To no longer eat the same foods every day, take the same street home… but rather to meet new people and be challenged by a new way of life—to stop living on autopilot. Moving overseas—no matter where you settle—you are as literally as possible getting out of your comfort zone.
So don’t fret that it takes time to adapt and integrate… to figure out exactly which part of town you want to live in… which local delicacy to relish (and which, perhaps, to avoid)…
In the beginning, everything you do is uncomfortable—including living overseas—you just have to keep at it.
Like me making disastrous croissants…
Editor, Live and Invest Overseas Confidential