I am a fan of James Clear’s book Atomic Habits and his weekly 3-2-1 Thursday Newsletter. The below is an excerpt from his August 11, 2022, newsletter.
“In the beginning, your skills are raw, your knowledge is sparse, and you lack experience. At best, you will be able to produce work that is “just okay.” And even then, you’ll only manage to reach “just okay” by giving your best effort.
Nobody wants to produce something that is “just okay.” You’ll feel like it’s beneath your standards. You’ll worry about what others think of you. You’ll wonder whether you would be better off taking a different path. But it is impossible to reach that stage unless you are willing to work through your current stage.
And so, one of the main obstacles between who you are and who you could be is courage. The courage to keep trying even if you’re not yet as good as you hope. The courage to keep trying despite your fears of what others may think. The courage to keep trying without knowing how the future will unfold.
Your great work is on the other side of your early work. The only way to be exceptional later on is to have the courage to be “just okay” right now. This is how it is for everyone.”
Share with recruits at the start of the academy and again at the end of the academy just before they move on to their FTO phase to remind them that they are at the very early stages of their growth and learning.
Share it with academy instructors and FTO’s as a reminder that the recruits they are tasked with training, coaching, and mentoring, are still at the very early stages of their career and development.
Share it with every person on his or her promotion to the next level of formal leadership and with every person who starts a new assignment in their agency as a reminder that each new assignment and/or promotion brings new challenges and requires them to learn new skills.
New trainers need to read and heed this message to understand that striving to become a great trainer is a lifelong journey. Every expert was once a novice. Every person who is great in their profession, once sucked. Prolific writers often cringe at their earlier writings. Too often however, we only see the result of the years of effort and growth, and miss the suck, the struggle, the incremental improvement, and the journey. Teach the people you train to embrace that struggle and embrace the suck while striving to learn, grow and improve. It takes courage to embrace the struggle and embrace the suck. Understanding that great work is on the other side of early work helps to bolster that courage.
It is not that things get easier along the way. Rather, as Duke women’s basketball coach Kara Lawson shared with her players, “We learn to ‘Handle Hard Better’”. (Thanks to Russell Fuller for sharing this YouTube clip.) Therefore, resilience and growth are not about bouncing back, but about moving through the struggle, suck, and hardship to strength, growth, and wisdom.
“We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a Master.”
Embrace the reality that your great work is on the other side of your early work. Understand that the goal, however, is not to get to the “other side”, rather it is to retain the beginner’s mindset and strive to keep learning, improving, and growing. The “other side” is always past the next ridgeline so keep moving forward, getting a little better every day and every class.
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