The Shirt Method: How to Learn Any Skill

and be a badass at it

By Jessica Araus

How to be badass
Photo by Becca Matimba on Unsplash

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What is the shirt method?

The shirt method is basically a principle of mine that confirms that anybody can be an expert in any field as long as they put some time and effort into it. Sounds easy, but let me explain in detail.

Two years ago, when I moved to the Netherlands, I had no job and no money. The week after I arrived I began to contemplate jobs that would give me a steady source of income. The first thing I came up with was cleaning. I immediately advertised my services on social media, and people started writing to me! So I started working as a cleaner, even though I thought I wasn’t good at it.

One day, one of my clients asked me to do a little bit of ironing for her. She wanted me to iron her husband’s shirts, and without even thinking I told her I could do it. I had never ironed a shirt in my life, so I started to panic, what if I burn a shirt?  What if it takes me ages to complete the task? I didn’t even know how to place a shirt on an ironing board. So I went on YouTube and watched a tutorial on how to iron a shirt, and that video gave me the confidence I needed to iron my first shirt.

The next day, I told my client, “I have to be honest, ironing is not something I am good at.” But she just smiled and said, “No worries. You’ll get good at it.” In my first hour, I ironed five shirts. I was proud of my work. The shirts looked fine, and I didn’t burn anything. I was happy to be able to do something that I used to think I wasn’t good at. Which takes me to the first rule of the Shirt Method:

1. Stop labeling yourself

We often tend to avoid doing certain things because we think we are not good at them. This is because we label ourselvesPerhaps you think you are not a good dancer, but hey! Have you ever given it a try? Perhaps you think you are not a good cook. But who knows? Maybe you are a damn creative in the kitchen. So forget about the “I’m not good at that” label, and just go and do it. Take the opportunity to learn to do it, and then you’ll become good at it. Not only good but great!

Once I learned to stop labeling myself, I began accepting more cleaning jobs, most of which included ironing. I then started to charge more and Ironing became easy peasy. I find it kind of relaxing, I can play the music I like and some of the best ideas come to me when ironing.

2. Practice, practice, practice

This is perhaps the most important rule of all. It doesn’t matter whether you dedicate ten or thirty minutes a day – as long as you are consistent at it, you can be good at anything you set your mind to. You can be a yoga instructor, a world-class photographer, or a fashion designer. If you practice your craft every day, you’ll master it without even realizing it. I guarantee you.

Depending on what you are trying to improve or be good at, it might take some time for you to develop certain skills. Nowadays, it only takes me 3 minutes to iron a shirt. I feel like a badass every time I take out my iron board, but it took me over a year to be skillful at this.

3. Schedule it!

Just as you would schedule a meeting with your friends, a coffee with your girlfriend, or a dinner with your parents, schedule your “new to develop task”. Set an alarm, write it on your desk planner, and be committed to it. Or just like you spend ten minutes (and be honest, it’s probably more) scrolling down on Facebook, invest some time to work on the badass “(insert profession here)” you want to be.

Look, I can certainly say I became the best ironer in town. But I know I can be the best at whatever I want to be. I just need to apply the shirt method to other aspects of my life.

To conclude this article, I have a little exercise for you. Go and make a list of all the things you think you are not good at. Start by writing “I am”. I am a writer, I am a teacher, I am an artist… Give yourself permission to be whatever you want to be.

Let me finish by quoting one of my favorite writers

“It is a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.” Elizabeth Gilbert on Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

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