Imagine a pair of kindergartners given a chance to make sand castles at the beach for the first time. Joy! So how do they get started? What it doesn’t look like is this:
- A lengthy discussion of which one will hold what responsibilities
- A determination of rank
- A feasibility study
- An outline of exactly where each mound will need to be in order to yield the best outcome
- A week beforehand of testing different lubricants in the pail to see which releases mud best
- A refusal to start until all aspects of final décor have been agreed to and checked by various demographics to make sure all will be pleased with what the two create
What it does look like is:
- Jumping into the muddiest part of the beach
- Getting in each other’s way and sometimes undermining the other
- Making ramparts that partially fall down and figuring out how to fix it or do it over
- Laughing at what doesn’t come out right
- Being proud of whatever the results because it was done with relish and creativity
- Not talking to a therapist years later because it wasn’t perfect
What do these kindergartners innately know that we adults have lost sight of? Three big things:
- Perfection is tremendously overrated.
- Making sure everyone else loves everything about our work isn’t our job.
- It’s just sand castles…not life and death.
One of the greatest gifts that I received from my studies of improvisation was, “Just go!” If I stand in the stage wings, watching scenework, debating all the implication of whether to come in as Grandpa or the gardener or the landlord, I leave my teammate on stage with none of these ideas to play off. We’ll never know which of those ideas would have been best, but there’s a good chance something good could come from any of them.
There’s also a chance that Grandpa’s entrance will totally undermine the scene; that’s improv.
But with each passing year of study, I learned more about what was likely to go well, and eventually I got fewer C’s and more B’s and some A’s. But first I had to earn a lot of C’s (and D’s and F’s on some nights) before I could get to the point where entering the stage boldly became both comfortable and successful. I had to fail a little and be okay with it.
Steve Jobs once said:
You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.
Jobs knew that we often put off big goals because we think we need an indestructible, fool-proof plan where we can see every step and exactly what the results will be. But since we lack that (though, on some level hoping it will magically appear someday), we never start. Jobs didn’t worry that his plans weren’t perfect. Jobs didn’t worry that, in the 2020s the iPhone1 would look clunky and weak compared to today’s model. He only saw an opportunity for an amazing step forward.
It’s like that with my public speaking skills clients. They often come to me “just to get through this speech” or “just to handle the weekly staff meeting better.” They don’t need to know what’s at the end of the rainbow for them in terms of how good they’ll get. And that’s fine. They just need to start taking steps. They don’t know it yet, but they will soon find themselves pleasantly surprised by the opportunities that start presenting themselves after they get better.
When I was in high school and college, I’d thoroughly research which classes were easy to get A’s in and which to avoid because I might not. The result? A great grade point average in classes I didn’t always have interest in and gaps in my education where I might not get an A. Boy, do I still wish I’d let myself get a C in Economics and Accounting just to have basic knowledge of those now.
So go out there and get some B’s and C’s. You never know what doors they might open!