When my 7 year old started basketball this year, I sensed it was going to be a motherlode of learning opportunities for life and business. I was right!
This was our first adventure into team and contact sports. She’s participated in track and field (and she’s pretty darn fast but you’ll get those metaphors when we’re well into that season) but nothing that involved ball handling skills or high levels of teamwork.
She was pretty timid at game time, staying a good 20 feet away from where the ball was in play. She wanted to be in, but lacked the confidence to get right in there. She’d stand at the half court line yelling “I’m open, I’m open” but the problem was, throwing the ball to her wouldn’t help her team score. So she was doing the right moves, but in the wrong place.
She reminded me of people who invest all their focus and energy into “doing the right things” for their business, but never actually going to the place where it will create results. For example, a person who spends thousands on a web presence that isn’t optimized or really serves no purpose in getting clients. Good tactics, bad strategy.
Little by little her confidence grew. I explained that it was OK to get right up to another player and STEAL the ball away. She took baby steps on this one, perhaps fearing she’d get pushed or knocked down. “You never know until you try!” I’d tell her.
I looked for motivators that would make it seem less like basketball and more like something she is already familiar with. She loves cats so I took that.
“Honey, pretend you’re a hungry kitten. And see that ball? That’s your kitty food. And you’re sooooooooo hungry you want that food! Go on and get it!”
She started to get closer to the action. Her defensive blocking improved, she started moving her body closer to the person she was guarding. When she’d come off the court I’d meow at her. (Mom’s gotta do what a mom’s gotta do!) and say “Good kitty! Grrrrrowlll!!!”
(OK, I’m just as playful as she is if you haven’t noticed)
“Kitty’s starving! Get out there!”
And so we carried this on through the season. I’ll get to the big breakthrough around that in a moment.
In business this is so essential too. We hold so many unclaimed talents, holding back on helping others because of timidity or shyness. When you connect a new action to something you’re already familiar with, it doesn’t seem hard at all. That’s how we all learned to read, walk, talk, use computers, and acquire languages.
In the meantime, she payed closer attention in practice and one day discovered how to dribble the ball while running… and not lose it.
This tiny breakthrough revealed to her that she could indeed learn a skill and improve upon it. Something about getting ONE THING RIGHT boosted her confidence level.
I used to HATE “selling” my services. Asking for someone’s business brought up all my “stuff”. I had well meaning people try to help me with this, but their methods weren’t always the best match. Then I took things little by little. I gave myself one tiny goal for each prospect conversation. Maybe it was to come right out and ask for the sale. Maybe it was to clearly and honestly say this didn’t feel like a good fit. But it was just one tiny goal at first. As I progressed, my confidence increased built entirely upon that baby step.
So back to my daughter and basketball.
She’d been given a couple core essentials: connect something new to something familiar and take baby steps.
This past weekend everything clicked.
First off, before the game she warmed up more intensively than ever before. She dribbled the ball right up to the basket and took practice shots. (Prior to this, she was scared of all the action).
Her confidence was evident because her teammates passed the ball to her more during the game as she was right there ready for action.
But the real clincher was her on defense. This kid was amazing!
She was right up there against the player with the ball, blocking, trying to steal the ball, not letting up. Wherever that ball was, she was. And she was aggressive without being fearful. The hungry kitty was on the prowl!
Other parents started coming up to me.”Wow! She’s playing so well today! What happened?”
I’d shrug and say “I guess it all clicked finally!”
I was ecstatic FOR HER. For her breakthrough, for her confidence awakening.
She came back at the end of the quarter and I patted her on the back as I handed her a bottle of water.
“You’re doing so well! I’m so proud of you. That kitty is HUNGRY today!”
“You know why, Mommy? Because I’m a hungry TIGER!!!”
Whew! From hungry kitty to hungry tiger. And all of that from baby steps.
Something for you to think about:
What this season taught me is that baby steps are OK as long as you keep stretching yourself to new levels.There’s nothing wimpy about them because once the confidence is achieved, bigger steps can be made.
If you’re in a learning curve in your business, find one challenging area you can start to work on. Pick something that makes you stretch, but not so much that you’ll get frustrated and quit.
Find a way to anchor new concepts (such as selling, marketing, or a new way of serving clients) to something familiar.
I look forward to celebrating your breakthroughs with you! This is the start of a new day for all of us.
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