The "rookie attitude" for making amazing things happen, and continuing the trend.

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here.

A number of years back I was in a meeting where a leader professed his enjoyment of working with new "rookie" employees and the excitement that came with it. I was not surprised when some in the crowd offered a contrary perspective regarding inexperience, the training burden and the "baby sitting" that needs to be done - I may be paraphrasing slightly when I use the term "baby sitting" but that's more or less what some were saying.  

The leader, after offering some thoughts on the definition of "leadership" and the apparent lack there of, pointed out that he really liked the energy someone new brings to the job and the opportunity to be involved with "all that potential". He went on to say, "Sure they make 'rookie mistakes'. But sometimes, because they don't know any better, can make amazing things happen". This has resonated with me for years.

In this context, I should point out a "rookie" refers to anyone new to an endeavour and not just the 21 year old standing on the pitching mound with the 100 mph fastball - This is probably a good point for a reminder that being a rookie is something all of us, in one role or another has been (and probably more than once)... not to mention that all of us have made that so called "rookie mistake" (and probably more than once). In my experience, this is something that tends to get forgotten along the way.... definitely the leader I spoke of earlier thought so.

Aside from cutting "rookies" some slack because we have all been there, it needs to be recognized there is a fundamental perspective that rookies have which we need to continue tapping into; something that many of us loose as our experience and achievements snowball and something we need to continue our momentum. As they say, "rookies don't know any better", but as you gain some experience and achievement under your belt it is expected that "you do know better" - Here in lies a problem and an opportunity. 

When you "don't know any better" you are forever looking to achieve and grow, whereas when you "know better" you are looking to protect what you have - In effect curtailing the drive that comes with "not knowing any better" so you can maintain what you have, forever worring about losing what you have gained:

  • "I've done that before and that was a waste of time"
  • "I know all about that, it is too risky"
  • "I won't do that. I've worked too hard to get this far"
  • "Sounds like a great opportunity but that's not where my expertise is"
  • "etc"

I am not questioning the value of the experience that comes from the trials and tribulations of work and life (in fact it's crucial) , but rather suggesting rookies put it all out there and are not impacted with the considerations and doubts as a result of experience and lessons learned. It is about maintaining the balance of experience and achievements with the "rookie attitude" that allows you to continue making amazing things happen, and resist that urge to stop, maintain and protect.

Of course this is easier said than done, but here are some ideas that come to mind: 

  • Remove the term "retirement" from your lexicon.
  • Cultivate the "rookie attitude" by adopting new technology.
  • If you are in a position to hire a "rookie" - Do it.
  • Search out rookie friends and colleagues. Talk to them and listen to them - Their attitude is infectious.
  • Make a point to trying something new that makes you uncomfortable.
  • Ask yourself what is the worst that can happen if you do something with all the gusto of a rookie. And then weigh that against the benefits.
  • Remember life is short and as the saying goes, "If not now, when?"

And lastly, the time of being a rookie is just so much fun*. That alone should be a good enough reason to strive for that "rookie attitude" and go after whatever is in front of you with gusto, no matter how much experience you have.


* Spend some time thinking about your "rookie" days and I will guarantee a smile comes to your face and you say to yourself, "Yes ... it was so much fun"