I had a powerful and visceral lesson about the importance of doing vs. analyzing yesterday that has tremendous implications for wannabe entrepreneurs.
My two-year old son Josh had his first swimming lesson.
We haven’t taken him swimming too much in his short life, but when we have, he has enjoyed it, so I thought he would jump right in and enjoy the lesson.
He was totally terrified, clinging to me like a baby monkey to his mama in the face of dangerous hunters. When the kind, experienced and gentle instructor asked me to bring him to the edge of the pool, he screamed, yelled and gripped me harder. My first instinct was to protect him, so I said “Maybe he should just watch for this first lesson so he gets more comfortable.”
She smiled, and said “No, it actually is better if he just goes in. The first 3 classes will be the hardest, but then he will adjust and things will be fine.”
I sat in pained maternal silence as I watched him scream and thrash in the water for his first 1 minute (very safe) drill. After he was done, he climbed out of the pool and clung furiously to my leg.
This continued for two more short drills (swishing around in circles in the instructor’s arms). His cries got a little less intense each time, and his clinging a bit more relaxed.
Then, at the 10 minute point, a miraculous thing happened. The instructor took him underwater to dive for a plastic ring. My heart was in my throat as I thought “But he has never been under water before!” and “He doesn’t know how to hold his breath!” After 30 seconds (update: it may have been more like 10 seconds, but it felt like 30 years), they both came up for air. He was clutching the ring with a big smile on his face.
The remaining 20 minutes of the lesson, he jumped off the diving board, swam underwater with the instructor and sat patiently on the steps of the pool with the other 2 students for his turn at drills.
He was beaming and excited by the time he left.
If it were up to me (someone who has NO expertise in swimming), I would have probably let him sit by the side of the pool for the first three classes, then dipped his toes in for the next three.
What broke his fear, and accelerated his learning by 900% was diving into deep water right away.
And that is where the lesson lies for entrepreneurs. How many of you:
- Analyze and re-analyze your business idea, strategy and tactics?
- Spend months (or years) questioning your ability to start a business?
- Agonize about which business to start or which product to create?
- Spend 9 months designing your business card, website and stationary before landing a single client?
- Wait for the “perfect time” to quit your job and start your business?
The message that hit me squarely between the eyes yesterday is that the way to exponentially accelerate your learning is to:
- Jump in and do something right away. If you want to be a coach, start to coach someone. If you are a software developer and want to create your own product, start with a small application. If you want to start a cookie business, bake 3 dozen and sell them on the street corner. Get started with your endeavor and you will quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Choose the right mentors. I can think of no situation where I felt more vulnerable and at risk than with my toddler’s life at the edge of the pool. We chose an instructor that is experienced, certified, qualified and capable, and I knew that she would never harm my child. Don’t “fling yourself into the pool” with just anyone — make sure you have good support around you.
- Don’t run away from fear. We often wait to do things until we “build up enough courage.” Secret tip: fear is always present when doing new things, no matter how seasoned or experienced you are. You just learn to feel it and do it anyway.
- Trust the process. As I elaborated in my post about the “conscious competence learning model,” you can’t expect to go from novice to expert in one step. It will take time, practice and experimentation to develop competence and confidence. But if you never take the first step, you will guarantee one thing: you will be perpetually stuck in the novice stage. And the longer you stay there, the more timid you become.
I will harness some of Josh’s courage and resilience as I move forward in scary new areas of my life.
I encourage you to do the same. Go ahead, dive in!