To Begin is Just Getting Started
For the last year, my 11-year-old son Anderson has been engaged in online learning. During his entire 5th grade year, his mother, father, and grandmother have been his teachers, along with a computer. He loved the rigor of math, the ability to write creative science fiction in language arts, the active PE units, and the overall flexibility that learning at home provided. One subject, however, challenged him: social studies. For the first time, he was studying historic events, laws and government, social justice issues, all of which were new and abstract.
Social studies pushed him out of his comfort zone. It made him think differently. It made him present new information, which required lots of research. On top of all the reading and tests, he had to present multiple speeches connecting events to how they impacted his state. His final presentation caused him the greatest stress. He had to select 10 events from the 1960s to today and discuss the impact and contributions Iowa made during these decades.
For days, Anderson pondered. He wrestled with where and how to start. I shared author Anne Lamott’s story, how her 10-year-old brother had three months to complete an extensive project on birds. Her brother revealed to the family he hadn’t started this project, which was due the next day. He sat at the table near tears, surrounded by paper, pencils, and unopened bird books, immobilized at the daunting task ahead. Lamott’s father sat next to him and placed his hand on his son’s shoulder and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
“Just take it bird by bird.” I emphasized this concept to my son.
Just get started. Event by event. One contribution at a time. Once he focused on the task, started reading, interviewing family members, growing interested and less resistant to his topic, the ideas, the information poured out of him. The struggle softened. Within three weeks, Anderson performed his 10-minute talk to his school principal, teacher, and family.
When asked to present, we may freeze, not knowing where to start, what or how to do it. Mark Twain said, “The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks and starting on the first one.”
Looking at the big picture, “I have this 50-minute keynote to complete.” Or “I have an 18-minute TEDx to memorize.” Or “I have an hour-long webinar to present,” can be discouraging.
It’s about getting started.
Find one manageable task and complete it. Ask yourself, “What’s my main idea for this talk?”
Once you’ve decided on a topic, then break it down into chewable bites: 1-3 main points.
Read and research.
Talk to people and listen.
Just start writing—idea after idea; point by point. Before you know it, you’ll have a completed presentation.