Don’t Begrudge the Beginning

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In June, I received a magazine in the mail that I hadn’t ordered. A magazine I had a subscription to was being phased out (always a disappointment) and they sent a couple of issues of something in its place to complete their commitment. Disappointed at first, because it isn’t one I have any interest in, I eventually looked through it and discovered there were a couple of puzzles in the back. One was “spot the differences” where they show two (seemingly identical) photos and you identify the differences between them. I happen to love those, so I quickly completed the one they offered. Opposite this puzzle was a crossword – something I had really no experience with, but I thought I would give it a go. To my surprise and delight, I completed it quickly and easily, thoroughly enjoying the experience.

When the next few issues of the magazine arrived, I went right to the back and did the crossword. I liked them so much I was genuinely disappointed when the magazine (which had held zero interest beyond the puzzles) stopped coming. I decided to go ahead and order a book of crossword puzzles, so naturally, I set about looking for one.

I had recently learned the puzzles that are published in the newspaper get progressively harder as the week goes on. If you aren’t familiar with this, it means Monday puzzles are the easiest, with the difficulty incrementally getting harder until we get to the Sunday puzzles. And Sunday puzzles are seriously difficult (this is why someone completing the Sunday puzzle is such an accomplishment). Now, to be clear, as I researched the options, I quickly realized that I needed Monday puzzles, so I ordered some described as being “Easy as Pie.”

Now you know I got that free shipping, so my order arrived quickly, and I set to work on these puzzles. Halfway through the first one, I had to ask my husband for some help. As I explained to him, I didn’t think like the writer of the crossword puzzle and simply didn’t understand what they were looking for. As we talked through the clues, he explained there were rules that the crossword puzzle writers followed and asked if I knew them. Rules? For a crossword puzzle? It made sense once he said it, but I honestly had ZERO idea there were rules.

If you aren’t familiar, here are a couple of examples: a clue with an abbreviation will yield an answer that is also abbreviated. Or: puzzles at or below Thursday level of difficulty usually have “themes” (source:

With the first few puzzles I did, I found myself getting a little frustrated and thinking I wasn’t any good at crosswording (I don’t know if that’s a real verb, but let’s just go with it here) and maybe shouldn’t continue.

This got me thinking… how often do we begrudge the beginning(s) of something and what can we learn from that?

Maybe you are a new manager or leader or a new mother or you are new at trying to homeschool in the midst of a pandemic. It’s so easy to think you “should be better at” something or “everyone else knows what they are doing” or you “will just never get it.”

I heard someone recently say you shouldn’t bring “feelings to a facts fight” (and vice versa) and this is 100% true in the matter of newness, so what can we do?

  1. Remember that you have been a beginner before, and you will be a beginner again. No one knows how to do everything, and it takes time to get to competency.
  2. Don’t be hesitant to ask for advice or receive assistance. Beginners, by definition, don’t have all the skills they need yet. My husband sharing his knowledge and encouragement helped me get to a new level of understanding and uncovered that there were rules.
  3. Speaking of rules, be willing to learn “the rules” of whatever you are doing. Rules give us borders and parameters; they help us know when we are doing something correctly, then doing it well, then at mastery.
  4. You have to stay in your weight class. We don’t promote someone from line staff to the executive team, there is a natural progression of learning and experience that needs to happen. We have to get a tool box, then put tools in it, then learn which tools are used when and…. In my case, I started with Monday puzzles and will continue to be there for a while because…
  5. Although it’s easy to EAT pie, I don’t think it’s quite as easy to make (really great) pie. Seriously, I don’t even know where this expression comes from. Making pie crust is difficult – there’s steps and you have to be so accurate and things need to be really cold and the dough needs to rest – basically, it’s a whole thing. Getting back on topic, it takes a long time to get good at something and we need to be patient with ourselves (and others) as we (and they) learn.
  6. One day you will barely remember being a beginner. Although the experience of being new is often grueling, we also tend to forget it really quickly.

I recently completed my first book of 72 crossword puzzles and have done about 10 in a new book. I think I am getting better at them, but more importantly, I really like doing them. I am not even trying to think about Tuesday puzzles, but how can I be the best Monday puzzler possible.

No matter what new thing we try to do, I propose we actually lean into the newness. Remain excited, learn the rules, put your “be nice to me, I’m new” button on and let people help you.

Then be ready to return the favor, because life will give you multiple shots at new beginnings.