Friday, October 3, 2008

Learning to Try

Not too long ago the vice president of my company told me that unlike some people, I was the type of person who forged ahead when working on projects (instead of holding meetings and talking about how to forge ahead), which is a fairly accurate description of how I work, but what he said next confused me, until now:

“I’ve always thought people who were involved in sports did this better – they learned to just go and do it, but that’s just my theory,” he said.

What does that mean, I thought? I played sports my whole life and didn’t quite get the connection.

Having been injured since May, I’ve had a lot of time to think and, quite frankly, become paranoid about how I will perform when I’m able to participate fully. Will I forget to look behind me? Will I get so flustered that I cannot do anything of worth? Will I remember how to play with my teammates? Will I hesitate?

I won’t lie – my first season was HORRIBLE. I was actually considered by some to be the “best blocker in the league” until we had a game, and then when I was out there in front of a crowd I was so afraid of screwing up that I wound up not doing much at all. It was terrible.

Luckily, I recognized this flaw and in my second season I made sure my team and I were working together (I was co-captain). This was the beginning of my exit from “fear” mode.

Then, leading into season 3, I had analyzed and knew full well what my flaws were and that if I ever wanted to be any good, I couldn’t let the fear of performing bad keep me from performing.

As I thought about this progression the other day, I realized that the statement my VP made did make sense. You’re never going to be effective if you don’t just try.

Sure, mistakes will be made along the way, but you can use them to learn how to become a better player (or worker or whatever). Only a fool looks forward all the time – you must look back to gain perspective on what was really happening, because when you’re in the moment, you don’t always know. But, once again, you’ll never get anywhere if you don’t try.

No one wants to watch a bunch of apathetic athletes – people who are so scared they will fail that they take the competition out of the sport, and in my mind, it’s difficult to work with apathetic workers – people who are so scared they will fail that they cease to be productive at anything.

I guess I now know the logic behind Nike’s slogan: Just do It. And it’s true. I hope I can remember this mantra in January when I’ll be able to scrimmage again!

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