3 Keys in Trying to Do it Right the First Time

My niece has a first coming. In three months, she and her husband will have another mouth to feed (pictured below). But more importantly, they will be first-time parents. She told me, “I can’t deny it. I’m a little nervous.” Yep.

We all have firsts. These come in experiences like our first day in kindergarten, our first time driving on an interstate, our first time praying in a group setting, our first time going for a job interview, or our first and hopefully only time to say, “I do.”

And they keep coming. Life is a journey of firsts. Last year my firsts included planning a sabbatical, running two half marathons in one weekend, researching for a book, and stepping up to the mic in a studio. These were firsts I chose to do. Not all firsts are chosen, though. Remember Noah? Chosen or not, all firsts come with moments of, “I’m a little nervous.”

I was more than a little nervous for my senior recital in college. You can say I chose it because I chose that field of study, but a 30-minute recital singing in various languages wasn’t shared in the catalog description. But I was buoyed by two things: my accompanist was the best on campus and my commitment to doing this right. My goal was to walk off stage thinking, “This is what I wanted to feel and experience.”

So how does one walk away from a first experience believing they did everything they could to get it right? Sounds audacious. Maybe even too lofty. But what’s that saying your probably heard from some mentor along the way, “If it’s worth doing, its worth doing right”? So from my efforts in trying to get firsts right, here are three keys to grasp:

  • Embrace your Emotions

    Your first could bring a myriad of emotions. Fear. Elation. Anxiety. Excitement. Doubt. Drive. I encourage you to deal with it all. Why? When someone deals with all their emotions, they grow in dealing with the negative and the positive. You learn your personal lane of balance. Some people are fearless and therefore are going to crash sooner or later; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy fear. Some people are born doubters and are constantly stunting their chance to go further; they need to find a balance of embracing healthy courage. Rather than falsely believing in the futility of balance seeking, we give ourselves a better chance of doing things right the first time when we embrace our emotions.

    • Stand in Your Why

      Convictions, purpose, values, vision: whatever your call them, they give you the stability to go after something for the first time. You must know them and ferociously guard them. Is your why clear? Do your methods live out your why? If you could state your why in five words, what would it be? Yes, your marriage should have a why. Yes, your parenting should have a why. Yes, your first 90 days on the job should have a why. We give ourselves a better chance of getting it right the first time when we stand in our why.

      • Be Fully Present

        Are you a “what-ifer”? Or a “if only-er”? Too much living in the past or for the future can stunt doing things right in the present. Using the example of parenting, research says that the core of who we are is established by age five. If that’s true, the parent concentrating on getting that child into Harvard while they’re in the pottytraining stage may miss some key elements in doing the parenting thing right. Live in the moment. Yes, plan for the future and learn from the past. But give yourself the best chance of doing this thing right the first time by being fully present now.

        Here’s to my niece, the first-time business owners, the first-time writers, and all first-timers! May God bless your efforts in trying to do it right the first time.

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        Dude…You’re in the Restroom…at the rest stop

        (An “Own It” series for Dudes)

        This month I’ve been doing quite a bit of driving. Trips have been anywhere from three to nine hours in length. Therefore, I’ve had reason to make a few pitstops. One such stop was memorable. It was a rest area in PA.

        Frankly, PA has nothing to do with it. I’ve experienced the same scenario before, but in a different way. In the other scenarios I wasn’t actually in the room, so not the same experience. I’ll get back to that.

        The experience has to do with dudes and their phones. Before you go there, no dude’s phone got dunked…not this time. Water wasn’t involved. 

        When I walked in, there was a dude in the first stall. While a couple others of us “rested,” the dude in the stall’s phone rang. And, you guessed it, he answered it. Not only answered it, but he was still carrying on the conversation when I walked out.

        Dude, you’re in a stall…using the restroom…at the rest stop. Doing business while doing business isn’t something the rest of us need to hear, see, or filter through any of our senses. For us other dudes, please observe the following manly restroom and phone pointers:

        • If your phone is your business line, consider yourself out of the office for a few minutes when you enter this “not private” office. For that matter, for your customer’s sake go ahead and declare that for all restrooms.
        • If you know that the ringing of your phone is simply irresistible for you to ignore, leave the phone in your vehicle. Most likely, you’ll get finished faster as well as get back to your phone and the highway more timely.
        • If the restroom becomes somewhat of a man cave for reading or playing games on your phone at your actual office or home, keep it that way. Get in and out at the rest area. Here’s a suggestion: pretend you’re at the stadium and it’s halftime. There’s a reason why reading materials aren’t provided.
        • If you must carry your phone with you for reasons for which you probably need to see a counselor, let all calls go to voice mail. People really don’t expect you to answer 24/7. They get it. They most likely won’t get it when they hear flushing and other noises from the other business guys in the room.
        • And back to that other thing, don’t be that guy…the guy that has to answer, “In the restroom,” when asked by your caller, “Where are you?” Your caller doesn’t need that visual. Again, senses.
        • Finally and seriously, own your phone. Don’t let your phone own you.

        Hitters: Even the Best Fail More Than They Succeed

        (This is the seventh in a series on wisdom from baseball. In this article, Mark Stanifer continues to mine his playing experience for insights into how to better play the game of life.)

        One thing that has always fascinated me about baseball is the best hitters still fail to get a hit about 7 times out of 10. Think about that for a minute. Only 3 in 10 appearances at the plate result in a hit. The all-time MLB leader, Ty Cobb, finished with a career average of .3664. This season, José Altuve leads all players with a .350 average. There aren’t too many professions where a 65% failure rate would be tolerated, let alone celebrated as hall of fame worthy.

        Learning to live with failure is a must to be successful in baseball. It cannot be avoided. It is a key part of why success requires winning the mental game first. Interestingly, being successful in life also involves dealing with failure. I’m using “successful” here in a very broad context — parenting, running a business, balancing career and family, living fulfilled, following Jesus. Regardless of what you are pursuing, you are bound to make some mistakes along the way. The key is how you look at those mistakes.

        Defining Failure

        My Mac dictionary says the verb fail is defined as “being unsuccessful in achieving one’s goal.” This has long been my only understanding of failure — an unsuccessful attempt to do something right. In fact, and I admit this with some embarrassment, there have been times I avoided even making an attempt at something for fear of experiencing failure. I realize some of this is my personality wiring, but more often I have not appreciated the benefit that comes with failure.

        There is another way to look at failure — neglect to make an attempt. Thomas Edison famously stated that he didn’t fail in his many attempts to make a light bulb, he simply discovered 10,000 ways not to. He also said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Do you think his perspective on failure had anything to do with his success?

        Learning From Mistakes

        For the successful batter, there is a balance between expectations and reality. If you don’t first expect to succeed then the likelihood of success is diminished. But regardless of your level of expectation, it does not guarantee a hit. I have always believed that making mistakes are rich experiences for learning, for others. But I have not always been so understanding for myself. Maybe you know what I mean.

        What do you do when you swing and miss? For some it is a helmet toss or slamming the bat. But after the emotion passes, the successful batter will reflect on the at bat — “What did I do well?” “What could I do better?” “What pitch did I miss?” He analyzes what he can in preparation for the next time. It would be foolish for the player to say “I didn’t get a hit so I’m not even going to bat next time.” Is it not also foolish for us to take the same approach?

        Keep Looking For At Bats

        Professional hitters are really good. We often say things like “this guy is horrible” or “I can’t believe how bad he is” but that is a relative comparison. And while natural ability has a lot to do with it, much of what makes them so good is they had a lot of practice, a lot of at bats. It’s not always true that the more you play the better you get, but the more at bats you have the more chances there are to get better. I think that’s why so many successful people emphasize the importance of failure as part of growth. They recognize that with each attempt there is an opportunity to get better, to get a hit.

        There are no stats per se to measure our life’s batting average. Even if there were, I’m pretty certain that none of us would bat 1.000. Maybe you struck out in your last at bat. Or maybe it has been a while since you’ve even been to the plate. Whatever your game, your previous at bat doesn’t have to be your last. Consider your attitude towards failure. Use failure as an opportunity to learn. Don’t let it keep you from trying again. You can stay in the game and continue to get better, but the next move is up to you.

        5 Rules to Avoid Regrettable Commitments

        Who knew a book on business could be so rich? Well, I can tell you that Larry Burkett’s book Business by the Book is.

        For example, in chapter 6, Keeping Vows, he gives five simple rules that could not only be applied to good business practice but also good personal living practice. He developed them to avoid making commitments he might later regret:

        1. When in Doubt, Say No
        2. Keep a “Year at a Glance” Calendar
        3. Prioritize the Day
        4. Don’t Book Too Far Ahead
        5. Use a Written Contract

        Here are two quotes from the chapter that seem to support the need for these rules:

        • Situational ethics have so shaped our society that even God’s people have lost the concept of absolutes when it comes to keeping our word.
        • The probability of a misunderstanding in a written agreement has been calculated at 20%, more or less. The probability of a misunderstanding in a verbal agreement is nearly 100%!