The Best Piece of Advice I Ever Got for New Ventures

20 03 2014

Anyone who has done something different from the crowd can tell you that doing something different is hard. Really hard. It’s no wonder salmon die after swimming upstream for so long (nevermind the science of their natural life cycle…jeeze just watch the .gif and go with the imagery here, ok?).

Salmon giphy

Oh yes, did I mention the bears along the hard-fought route?
There always seem to be bears.

Suffice it to say that when educators decide to try something different than what’s been done before, different from what the rest of their community expects, that’s not easy going, either.

And we have such high expectations for our innovation for two reasons:

  • we’ve recognized that how we’ve been doing it just won’t cut it any more and
  • we have seen positive evidence of another strategy getting others to where we want to go.

There’s just no other option, right?

So we find ourselves, like the salmon, swimming, swimming. Sometimes the leap takes us up and over the waterfall and sometimes we’re the ones falling back, trying to muster the energy and courage to take the leap again (avoiding the bears). And eventually, it can just seem to be too much.

O you mighty salmon-ish educators working hard. Just for a moment take a pause. Take just a brief moment and consider the lives of the perennials in the garden:

The first year they sleep;
The second year they creep;
The third year they leap!

I picked up this “herbaceous” piece of advice many years ago from a gardening TV show and have since realized that it fits just about any new endeavor I’ve ever had to work through. Sure, that first year when I tried something new, the students and parents were happy, but I was dissatisfied. I knew there was so much more; several things so much better that could have been done. So I kept working. And the hits could have been enough to discourage me. I could have (should have?) gone belly-up and become bear food. But I remembered the advice of the perennials. And the second year, it got better. The third year? It was astounding. At the end of that third year, I finally felt comfortable enough that I started a new cycle of innovation, adding on and beginning my first year of “sleep” again.

And it always seems to go that way.

This is the advice I gave all my new teachers and I still give to anyone who is trying out something new, whether it’s in education, fitness, or anywhere else. Give yourself permission to “sleep” the first year. You’re going to be working hard — really hard — but the innovation is just chilling. You’ll get better.

Just pause and take a moment before you try to leap that waterfall again, o mighty salmon, and please, have patience with yourself.

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