A Good Place to Start

4 minute read

What’s a Good Place to Start?

Anytime I’m starting something new, I tend to feel a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m learning a new skill, or applying something in a new context. When I first started woodworking, I barely knew anything and talked with some friends. These guys had incredible skills and showed me amazing projects that they created. It was almost overwhelming! I was looking at products created by people at the highly skilled end of the spectrum when my skill level was definitely at the other end. My buddies could make beautiful furniture…I was hoping I could make blocks. It was silly of me to look at really advanced examples that were way beyond my skills and expect myself to be anywhere close. To help yourself with this sensation when you’re doing something new, be sure to ask yourself, “What’s a good place to start?”

The Thread from Childhood

Remember back when you were a kid and were learning to ride a bike? You probably had parents who were encouraging and excited when you rode for 10 feet without touching the ground, then 20 feet without touching, and so on. It took a while until you could ride consistently. Along the way, there was celebration for staying at it, and encouragement when you crashed.

So, what happened between our childhood and now that we expect ourselves to be really good at something right from the start?

Be Kind to Yourself

As each of us pushes ourselves to do something new, we can feel pressure to succeed and do well. That pressure doesn’t help us. In fact, it can contribute to our feeling tense and overwhelmed. If you’ve been successful at lots of other things and you attempt something new, you may feel pressure to be good right from the start. This unreasonable expectation doesn’t help and can make getting started even harder.

It’s time that you have patience with yourself, and give yourself grace when attempting something new, recognizing that there will be screwups, setbacks, and failures. That’s how everyone learns. That’s how you find the edges of what you can do THAT time. As you practice and keep working at things, those edges move outward and you’ll be comfortable and capable of more and more.

This is even more important when you work on your leadership skills, with yourself and others

Weigh the Risks, and Timing

Let’s say you recognize that you don’t hold people accountable for what they’ve agreed to do. You realize that this is creating costs, frustrations, and some headaches for you; so, you decide to start doing something different. As you start using accountability, pick specific situations where you have more comfort, and more space to take a healthy risk. That might be with the auto shop, the babysitter, or a supplier with whom you have a good relationship. 

What doesn’t make sense is to start using accountability with your senior manager, or during a high-profile situation. That isn’t the time to insert something new since the cost of a mistake is so high. Plus, your overall tension will be elevated because of the important situation. Adding a “new thing” you aren’t comfortable with will only add to the tension. 

By selecting a situation (who, what, where, and when) that is more forgiving, you’re setting yourself up for the first iterations to be easy. That’s where you are going to learn a lot and gain the initial confidence to keep going. Just like first learning to ride a bike, choose an environment that helps you get started, build repetitions and momentum, and feel what a simple success is like!