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How Starting Before your Ready is the Key to Success


Three years ago, my middle son Luke decided that he wanted to play hockey.  He taught himself how to skate on our pond and was determined to try a new sport. Luke decided he was willing to start at the bottom at nine years old if it meant getting to play a sport he had been dreaming about. Trying something new can be overwhelming.  We did as much homework as we could about preparing for hockey. I talked to several parents who had kids that played. We researched a number of things online and were able to learn about how all the gear worked ahead of time from our local skating rink.  


As he said goodbye the first night of tryouts, I told him, “The only thing that separates you from these other kids is time on the ice. You are an athlete who is aggressive and has a great sense of how to play sports. The lessons you have learned in other areas will carry over into this sport, but for now, you have to have the guts not to be good; it’s the only way to get great”.  


Even though we did a lot of work ahead of time, there were a few things we didn’t realize before the first night of tryouts. Luke showed up with a street hockey stick that first night, and. Looking back, having a stick for ice hockey seems like a no-brainer.  When you begin before you are ready, you will have the opportunity to learn useful advice from other people along the way. Fortunately, one of the coaches explained some of the things that we needed to adjust and gave a few pointers.  


If Luke would have waited until he was “Good enough” or “Ready,” he would never have started and not be playing today.  Most likely, the fear of not being able to match up with the other hockey players his age would have made him feel like he wasn’t good enough to start. 


Today, I am proud to say that Luke is a third-year hockey player and has not only scored several goals over the last couple of years, has become an incredibly defensive player this year. He matches up incredibly well on the ice; and works incredibly hard to master different techniques. Like everyone else, he still has a lot to learn, but I continue to be starstruck by his ability to charge down the ice after the puck, pass with finesse, or take a risk with a tough shot. The skills he learned playing years of basketball, soccer, and being a runner were transferable and set him up for success as his skating ability caught up. 



When I think about Luke as a hockey player, it reminds me of students and myself in the classroom. There are so many reasons not to try something new. Not only are new things overwhelming, but they also require research, time upfront, and the willingness to keep doing something even when you are not good. I often think back to the times that I have tried out a new tech tool or had the guts to consider a new approach to delivering instruction. While some things work out well right away, some things initially produce a struggle. 


It was tough for Luke to go back the second night of tryouts when he knew his ability compared to the other hockey players. But, the thought that being not good initially is how you become good reminded him of where he was going, not where he was at. Nobody starts a hundred percent ready, and therefore is typically not very good in the beginning. Some days we are going back to try again doesn’t sound very good. When content, technology or working with students becomes tough, some days make us question if we are good enough to keep going. Keep moving forward.Strength and ability come from outworking initial talent.  


Start Before you are Ready.

Friday, I was listening to one of my favorite podcasts put together by host Lisa Toebben (@teach_n_boots). Grab Opportunities before you are ready. Lisa, on the She Elevates Podcast was interviewing Dave Burgess, (@burgessdave) who explained that you have to start before you are ready. Dave talked about the experience of starting a podcast. To get really good at creating and producing a podcast, he had to be willing to start before he was ready; and start when he wasn’t as good as he would like to one day become. I liked Dave’s point that you get ready once you have started. Artists put something out there, and eventually, you have to hit send. It’s not going to be perfect. It might not be great, but doing something is better than nothing. 


Starting before you are ready involves working hard, but rather than second-guessing everything you are doing, criticizing your product immediately, and not being willing to move ahead until it is perfect will not serve a purpose in moving toward your goals. The courage to start even when the results are messy gives your mind a chance to fill in the gaps and learn the information to help you achieve the next level. 


The best results happen when we start acting like the person we want to be. Luke saw himself as a hockey player before he set foot on the rink. If you want to podcast, see yourself as an amazing podcaster, and start doing everything that an amazing podcaster would do. When we act as if we are already doing the things we hope to achieve, it becomes easier to pick up and stick to the little habits being formed to make our goal a reality. The first few times showing up will be tough. When you put yourself out there, challenges will arise. Skills that you have learned in other areas will carry over into what you are trying to do.  Being out of the comfort zone is stressful. However, there is no way to become really good at something if you never have the guts to begin.  


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