In the scrapbook I have of my growing-up days, there is a photo of me on my first day of kindergarten, which was published on the front page of the Santa Ana Register newspaper. There I am, walking across 17th Street with the crossing guard, lunch pail in hand, proudly wearing my first-day-of-school polka dot dress. Looking at this little girl that was me, I can feel what she must have been feeling – excitement, a little fear, anticipation, doubt – as she walked into the unknown.
There have been other times in my life when I have felt this same “beginner’s” feeling – going off to college, auditioning for my first play, my early days as a restaurant manager and again as a human resources generalist. Being a beginner means you have a lot to learn and that can be exhilarating and downright scary.
I found myself in that place again as I began my leadership coaching practice, my life as an entrepreneur. While launching into the unknown can be intimidating, I am reminded of some things I probably learned in kindergarten and that still hold true today.
1. Everyone has been a beginner at some time. Even those great big first graders.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask. People can be so very generous with their time and expertise – whether it’s how to tie a shoe or which way the letter “d” faces.
3. Practice may not always make perfect (what is “perfect” after all?), but it sure helps make you better (think jump rope).
4. People are more forgiving than you imagine. Your best friend may be mad, but the world actually won’t end when you make a mistake (and you WILL make them).
5. The small voice that reminds you what a loser you are – and sounds a bit like your brother – is a big fat liar and should be sent to permanent time-out.
6. Sharing what you’ve learned with others helps you learn too. And what could be more fun than singing “Hokey Pokey” with a new friend – at the top of your lungs – with a whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on?
If you find yourself as a beginner again, remember your little kindergarten self and all the other beginnings you have made. Be kind to yourself when you make mistakes, know that things will get easier the more you do them, accept forgiveness, don’t listen to that “loser” voice, share your experiences with others, and never forget that you too will one day be a big bad first grader.