What Phase of Life are You in? Luke, Leia, or Obi Wan?

What Phase of Life are You in? Luke, Leia, or Obi Wan?

“We meet again, at last. The circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner; now I am the master.” – Darth Vader
“There comes a point in adulthood when you find yourself looking for a grown up and then realize that you are one. Then you look for someone adulting harder than you. An adultier adult” – popular internet meme
In the professional development field we tend to hone in on what we can do better, what we can learn, and how we can support a project. And that’s a fantastic focus! But there’s another aspect to keep in mind, and it’s something I’m a big believer in:

When you work hard, when you learn from others, when you practice, you ‘get.’ Once you ‘get’ you have something to ‘give.’ After a while, it’s time to start ‘giving.’

It’s easy to miss but essential – when you have something to share or bring to the world, something that can help others, it becomes your duty to help them. While development is very much a process, there are 3 realistic phases we can break it down into – novice, practitioner, and mentor. For our purposes, we will use a Star Wars metaphor to illustrate.

Novice: Luke Skywalker

“I want to come with you to Alderaan. … I want to learn the ways of the Force and become a Jedi like my father.”
This is that newbie feeling at its purest, the rush of anxiety/excitement at the beginning of a new course of learning. The frustration of trying to do things the first (or fiftieth) time and having them come out not-quite-right. Everything is fresh when you’re in the Luke phase. You may be practicing, you might even be getting a little bit better each time (go you!) and feel like your skills are getting stronger. This is what it means to be a novice.

Practitioner: Princess Leia Organa

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’m a member of the Imperial Senate on a diplomatic mission to Alderaan”
This is one phase that’s easy to miss, because in many ways it feel natural, or like becoming a better novice. Once you’ve gotten the hang of things in your new pursuit you start running with it. Every challenge is new but you know how to handle yourself, have goals in mind and have steps lined up to achieve them. You may have mastered what you’re doing and be operating smoothly now. In Leia’s case, you know how to withstand interrogation and lead a rebellion.

Mentor: Obi Wan Kenobi

“You must learn the ways of the Force, if you’re to come with me to Alderaan.”
You’ve achieved a level of mastery now that means you can do more than excel in your pursuits – you can help others excel in theirs. You’ve been a practitioner long enough to understand the how and why behind the choices that you make. This stage is also tricky to pinpoint, often folks don’t even know they’ve reached this level until someone comes to them and asks for help. For Obi Wan, suggesting training to Luke comes naturally because he knows his own capacity to be a mentor.
So now that we’ve broken down these three categories here’s the most crucial thing to remember: You are in all three states at one, at all times.

I know, hard to believe but true. You are a novice, a practitioner, and a potential mentor, all at the same time – just in different fields and skills. You might be learning to negotiate your salary, a practicing web metrics analyst, and an excellent cook who could teach others. You might be moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, be an adept swing dancer, and an accomplished public speaker who can see how others are struggling. At every given moment you have something you aren’t very good at yet, something you are good at, and something you are so good at you could help someone else get better. The wonderful thing about this is that at any moment in time, you have the opportunity to seek help from someone and offer help to someone else.

So here’s your homework assignment: Estimated time 5 minutes

What are 3 things you are just learning to do for the first time?
This is liable to be a long list, so pick projects that you’re excited about.
What are 2 things you’ve become adept at?
If this is difficult, think of things your friends/family/coworkers ask you to handle for them.
What is 1 thing you know you could help someone else do?
To get started, try thinking of times someone has asked you to help them do something.

Take a look at your list, and in the next week keep it in mind: how can you learn from others? How can your skills help others, and how can you help others develop their own skills?
I’d love to see what you’re working on in the comments below!

Scared of Change? Take Santa’s Advice and Start Small.

Scared of Change? Take Santa’s Advice and Start Small.

The holiday season is filled with promises, presents, and resolutions. It’s a perfect time to consider the changes you’d like to make in your daily life… but how do you get started when change seems too difficult? Thankfully, there’s an old-school claymation Christmas classic that’s got the perfect solution.

one-foot text

It’s hard to beat the Rankin and Bass stop motion holiday specials. While they are filled with excellent music and animation, this is one of the most poignant and forgotten songs in the bunch: Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Winter Warlock: “I really am a mean and despicable creature at heart, you know. It’s so difficult to… [sigh] really change.”
Kris Kringle: “Difficult? [chuckles] Why, why look here. Changing from bad to good’s as easy as…taking your first step.”

Now, this guy the Winter Warlock as some serious issues. But look at his turmoil a little more closely – and here’s where R&B really do their thing as story tellers – and you see an incredibly relatable dilemma. He wants to be something else. But instead of moving toward that goal, he’s living in the agony of wanting something and not going for it. Sound familiar?

Winter Warlock
The Winter Warlock: actually kind of a dick

Now, maybe you haven’t doomed people to a toy-less life in a frozen wasteland, and maybe you’re not a tyrannical old man in the mountains. But stop me if this starts to sound familiar:

  • Feel like you ought to have more energy, but not knowing what that might feel like
  • Being tired and headachey all day, but grabbing extra caffeine instead of changing the way you sleep
  • Wishing you had a skill, but deciding that getting it is too much of an investment
  • Sitting around bored or lonely, but too uncomfortable approaching new people or new activities

In a shocking turn of events for a holiday movie, Santa has an answer: Take a step.

A teeny, tiny step in the direction you want to move costs very little.

Maybe you want to have more confidence. Maybe you want to run your own company. Maybe you want to be a good public speaker. Maybe you want to approach the day more rested and relaxed. Maybe you want a flexible schedule to spend more time on the people and activities you love.

But all that is just a dream that’s far away! In reality it’s just so… so difficult to… [sigh] really change.

Lots of people say “just start!” …and that can feel impossible.

“Just start” sounds like “Just become an astronaut” or “Just make 10 million people value and respect you.” These goals are huge, and there’s no road map to get to them. Starting can feel pointless or frightening – even sickening. That’s why plenty of people will never, ever do it.

“If you want to change your direction,
If your time of life is at hand,
Well, don’t be the rule, be the exception
A good way to start is to stand.”

Starting is small. Why does it feel big?

Starting is a way of declaring what you want, and that can be scary on its own. Starting is about the declaration, not about immediate results – so give yourself a break and pick something little. It’s not cinematic, and it doesn’t need to be a huge, life changing turning point. Maybe it’ll seem that way someday in the future when you’re writing your memoirs about how awesome you’ve become, but right now it can be something little. It can even feel dumb, like flossing a single tooth to get into the habit of flossing. Want to be a writer? Write a sentence, and hit save. Want to be a runner? Walk around the block. Actually want to be an astronaut? Print out the requirements, and tape them up where you’ll see them every day.

You know, tiny penguin friend, starting doesn't have to be a big deal.
You know, tiny penguin friend, starting doesn’t have to be a BFD.

Sure you’ll want to do more than that. That’s the whole point! You’re putting yourself on a path you actually want to walk down.

Winter: “If I want to change the reflection I see in the mirror each morn…
Kris: “Oh, you do?
Winter: “You mean that it’s just my election?
Kris: “Just that!
Winter: “To vote for a chance to be reborn? Woo-hoo!”

See that? We even get a “Woo-hoo” from the grumpy, evil, Winter Warlock himself. Why? Because he doesn’t have to wake up tomorrow an entirely different, perfect person. All he has to do is make up his mind to take a step toward that goal.
Starting isn’t playing your first concert. It’s not even impressing your music teacher. Starting is finding your local music shop and walking in the door.

The work of starting is taking a first step toward something you want.
The result of starting is moving yourself in the direction of your choice.

Tangible results don’t have to be impressive – the impressive stuff is your decision to change directions and explore the possibility of a way of living you’ll like more. It can be a print out or a single sentence or a business card or a walk. Too often we assume that starting something new means we’ll have to produce impressive results right away, but change is really about moving toward the thing you want. The crucial element is getting yourself in motion toward the thing that you want to pursue. Once you get the ball rolling, the results will come.

I’ll let father Christmas himself bring this one home:

“You never will get where you’re going
If ya never get up on your feet.
Come on, there’s a good tail wind blowin’
A fast walking man is hard to beat.
Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you are walking ‘cross the floor
And soon… you’ll be walking… out the door!”

You’re probably not wondering about me.

You’re wondering about you.

You’re wondering if this site is going to help you feel more confident, enjoy your work, and ultimately get the kind of life you want. I want you to have all of those things everyday, and I’m writing here to help you get there. So short answer: yes! Long answer: yes, if you’re willing to work at it!

I’m Margaret. I started Gutsy Wonder as a way to talk about what it means to be brave, face challenges, and figure out how to meet the scary stuff life throws at us. Here I review some of the best self/professional development books out there, recount tools I’ve used to work around challenges, and interviews with people who are working towards their best life.

Mostly, I just got tired of being scared.

And the only thing better than facing the things that scare you?

Sharing the wealth and helping others face them too.

So that’s the mission for you, should you choose to accept it: take what you’ve learned, and then have the guts to apply it and share it with others. That’s what I’m doing here – piece by piece in a flawed and fabulous way. I’d love for you to join me.