Despite my nature, I play it safe. Almost all the time. Especially when things are new to me and I want to be absolutely sure I’m following the right process, learning from the mistakes and doing a good job overall. And I keep at it until it becomes second-nature to me. I start to play my natural game when I get a sense of confidence that I’ve built up a solid foundation and it’s time to scale it up.
If there’s one aspect that’s been constant in my life, it’s this — I’m quite cautious at the start. Overly cautious in some cases. In fact, I remember how I used to play cricket back in school. The first 10-20 minutes were almost always spent getting used to the pitch, the opposition and getting into the groove. It used to drive my teammates nuts! For them, I was “wasting” the balls away. For me, it was part of the process leading me to my natural game, which was much more aggressive and bold.
Ditto for powerlifting. I juggled with a bunch of training programs until I found the right one with just three exercises making me visit the gym three days a week. I was cautious and didn’t know if I was doing the right things (I could’ve opted for a personal trainer but they don’t give a damn about you, the person, but just the results). It took me close to two years to fully understand the art and science of strength training. That’s a LOONNNNGGG time. But that’s who I am. I would rather figure things out myself than have someone else do it for me.
I’ve been working (as an employee) for the past 16 years and have had four jobs during this time. And each time, I went through the process. Starting slowly, getting accustomed to the environment, people and their temperaments (and adjusting accordingly), learning new things till the point that I have absolute mastery over each of the aspects that are important to my performance at the workplace. Post that all I do is bring in my experience and craft to make art of what people consider as work. That’s the reason why I love what I do!
So, what exactly am I coming at? It’s this — what I go through is my process. Yours may be different but what we need to understand is there’s no such thing as “playing it safe” and your real (the natural) game. I used to think that way. In fact, I’ve told some of my friends that I’m “playing it safe” but wait till I get to play “my natural game.” And they would believe me because they knew what that means. But I’ve learned that those aren’t two different stages but different points in your growth continuum.
Playing your natural self can never be a destination. And even if it is, you will have to arrive at it every day or perhaps each time you need to start something new. Which, in today’s time, would be almost every other day.
As a coach, I’ve literally cussed myself for not being a great coach while serving my clients when I was just getting started. Why? Because I didn’t play my natural game. How could I’ve possibly done that when I didn’t even know where I was on the journey? My perception was that “playing it safe” is a stage but things will change drastically when I actually get to play my “real game.” Honestly, that was so stupid of me.
Think about this — how does an infant start walking? They start to crawl, then begin to hold on to stuff, try to pull themselves up, fall down, pick themselves up again, try to take a step while holding on to something, fall, repeat and basically keep at it until the time they can walk, run and sprint. Do they ever think about their state of “games.” Would we call that their natural game? If yes, why the heck would you get impatient with the process that you are going through?
We never arrive at growth. It’s not an event but a process. And even if it were a destination, you would want to arrive at it over and over again.
* This blog, my coaching (executive, personal and strength coaching) projects aren’t just side-hustles born out of necessity. I love what I do!