Some time ago I watched a video short featuring NPR's Ira Glass talking about how beginning something is difficult. Not that the task is necessarily hard (though it might be), more the idea that when we start something, we are motivated for some reason, and that by definition of being a beginner, we will fall short of what we're motivated to do. Typically we have some idea of what competence looks like; in the world of creativity this can be considered taste. In the world of gravity sports it looks more like accomplishment.

Regardless, there is a disconnect between when we begin something and our ability to deliver this thing with any degree of grace, and what we know is possible, or for a true visionary, what we can only imagine and have been told is impossible. We won't write amazing code, we won't ask excellent questions, won't lead a team session that blows minds. Not right away.

I can vividly remember the first time I laced up my first pair of snowboarding boots, tightened the bindings on the used board I'd just bought, and realizing "holy shit this is going to take a long time," promptly fell on my ass.

It was intimidating; I knew there was no way to learn this sport without falling. A lot. So I asked for help from buddies, and practiced the same basic forms over and over again, one little step at a time. And slowly, I fell less and rode more. And as I improved I stopped asking other people for help as much and started paying a lot closer attention to the board and how it moved through the snow. Noticed the parts that took a lot of effort or caused me to be unstable. And the sublime sensation of flying down the mountain on the board's thin steel rail became its own reward, and its own pursuit.

Starting agile is hard, too. So is progressing. And we must be willing to fall without fearing failure, must be willing to ask for help without fearing stigma of incompetence. We must pay attention to the results and be willing to closely examine those areas where our effort is not fully leveraged. We must answer powerful questions about improving these. And we begin to cross the inflection point where our work becomes a joy. And the only path there is persistent sustained effort.

What are you or the teams you work with beginning?


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