To Get Good, Be Enthusiastic About Being Bad
Last week David facilitated two days of leadership programs for a financial services company. During the retreat, there was rich conversation about TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)® and the 3 Vital Questions® — including the idea of creating outcomes via baby steps. Afterward, he received this email from one of the bank executives who is responsible for several leadership development processes. He shared the following story:
A few years ago, a group of American and Norwegian researchers did a study to see what made babies improve at walking. They discovered that the key factor wasn’t height or weight or age or brain development or any other innate trait but, rather (surprise!), the key factor was the amount of time they spent firing their circuits, trying to walk.
This finding… paints a vivid picture of what deep practice feels like. It’s the feeling, in short, of being a staggering baby, of intensely, clumsily lurching toward a goal and toppling over. It’s a wobbly, discomfiting sensation that any sensible person would instinctively seek to avoid.
Yet the researchers found that the longer the babies remained in that state, the more willing they were to endure it, and to permit themselves to fail, the more skill they earned. The staggering babies embodied the deepest truth about deep practice — to get good, it’s helpful to be willing, even enthusiastic, about being bad. Baby steps are the royal road to skill.
He further commented;
I love that line: “Baby steps are the royal road to skill.” I have greatly enjoyed watching my own children, as well as my grands, take their first steps. It is such a benchmark in our development as humans. All the tries…and all the falls.
This also made me do some self-reflection. If babies held the same tendency toward self-criticism as I do, they might never learn to walk or talk for that matter. Can you imagine a baby stomping and throwing a fit, “Dang it! Screwed up again! I’ll never learn to walk.” Fortunately, babies are free of self-criticism. They just keep practicing. They keep trying.
There’s a lesson in here for us as leaders. Keep practicing. Keep trying. And remember… BABY STEPS. They’re the royal road to skill.
Ironically, Donna’s grandson took his first steps last week!
The idea of baby steps is a basic concept in TED* and rests on the principle that creating something is an ongoing, incremental learning process. The magic of simply taking the next step that is yours to do (not someone else’s to do), is a personal empowerment move. Why? Here are a few reasons:
- Baby steps prevent brain overload. As the researchers discovered, the baby that keeps practicing supports the brain to focus on one step at a time, preventing brain freeze and overwhelm.
- Taking baby steps helps reduce your fear of making mistakes. Your ego tells you to have a comprehensive plan that guarantees success before you take action. Baby steps are so much easier and have a greater chance of success. If the step is a mistake, you can learn and adjust from it before taking the next step.
- Taking a baby step triggers your innate reward system and motivates you to keep going by feeding your enthusiasm to move forward. It’s a law of physics and inertia. Getting into action helps you stay in action.
As you create a life of unlimited possibilities, embody the wisdom of a baby learning to walk. It’s okay to be uncomfortable, messy and bad, make mistakes and then keep creating one baby step at a time!