“In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late. Procrastination is still the thief of time.” Martin Luther King Jr.
As a proponent of beginning with the end in mind, I will start with the above quote from the final paragraph of Steven Pressfield’s new book Do The Work (which you can still download free on your Kindle or via the Kindle app until May 20th). I highly recommend this book for everyone who is working to make our schools more relevant places for our students.
Pressfield hits the nail on the head from the outset with his opening words in part 1, Beginning, telling readers, “Don’t Prepare. Begin.” Is it just me or do others feel that we spend too much time planning in education? We set up planning committees to make decisions and we plan and we plan, but it seems that we never really begin. I think that we should scrap the time we spend planning and just start. Really, would be any worse off? Besides, starting is much for fun that preparing and a little fun in the mix would go a long way.
Or as Pressfield puts it, “A home-run swing that results in a strikeout is better than a successful bunt or even a line-drive single.” or “Better to have written a lousy ballet than to have composed no ballet at all.”
In the second portion of the book, Middle, Pressfield talks about overcoming the resistance that you are sure to face when you begin your important work. His advice here is “stay stupid. Follow your unconventional crazy heart.” I can’t help but think how difficult this is for those of us who have spent so many years in public education. It reminds me of Sir Ken Robinson’s talk on divergent thinking. But despite this stifling experience, where there is passion there is hope. Or as Pressfield describes it, “A work-in-progress generates its own energy field.” If we can move beyond our inherent skepticism and doubt “(we) should be feeling a tailwind.”
Pressfield also reminds us to review our mission statements or as he puts it “What is this damn thing about?” I don’t think we ask this question often enough in education. Maybe it’s because we are afraid of what might happen? Because the big F in education means failure. However, if you are a reformer you need to fail every once in a while. Or as Pressfield puts it, “A crash means we have failed. We gave it everything we had and we came up short. A crash does not mean we are losers…A crash means we are on the threshold of something new.”
Who needs something new more than those of us in education?
In closing, Pressfield comes full circle and asks us to “Start (again), before (we) are ready.” Let’s face it, even if we do fail in our change efforts we will be much better off than sitting in this stale system that is not coming close to preparing our students adequately for their futures beyond our walls.