How far will your baby steps take you?

Small steps. The phrase always makes me think immediately of “baby steps” and as the proud father of two very young boys I know exactly what that describes: the hesitant, conscious incompetence of a toddler who has mastered standing and is now learning to put one foot in front of the other to get from A to B, preferably without falling flat on his or her face, which often happens quite literally.

Someone who is wise about these things once told me that once you have made your mind up about something, your decision making changes, sometimes imperceptibly to you, to start you moving towards implementing that decision.

A few years and several jobs ago, I wasn’t really enjoying my work and I didn’t know what to do about it. I had a long chat with a friend (who also happened to be training as a personal coach at the time) and one of the things that came out of it was I realised that I wasn’t doing something that really captivated me. I didn’t hate my job but I wasn’t immersed in it. I was clock watching most days, wishing I was doing something else. That something else most of the time was making and playing music.

I’ve always been, by my own definition, a music obsessive. I learnt the guitar at an early age and would spend hours in my bedroom practising. Contrast that with the cello which I felt I “had” to learn for various reasons and so practising was a chore I had to work myself up to. As my skills progressed and musical taste developed, I grew to be fascinated by electric guitars. Eventually I saved up and for my birthday got a black Stratocaster (a Squier, back when they were a bit more solid than I believe they are these days guitar fans), just like my then-hero Eric Clapton. I spent even more hours practising that and yes, sometimes practising involved standing in front of a mirror… well, I was a teenager.

But the point is I lost myself in the activity. Completely and utterly – to the extent of forgetting about lunch, which for me is a massive thing!

Anyway, fast forward to me, probably fifteen plus years later, having a bit of a career crisis. I realised nothing I was doing involved me like that any more. Only a couple of months after that conversation I found myself leaving my job and taking on a part time HR Manager role that seemed to offer me a win-win-win: keeping some predictable income going; giving me a role that would develop my professional HR skills and giving me some time to make music.

I don’t recall really making a conscious decision about it until quite late in the day. My subconscious had decided for me and without even noticing I had taken baby steps towards what I actually wanted – checking jobs sites, keeping an eye on the local papers, updating my CV…

The role only stayed part time for about twelve months or so but it gave me enough time to scratch a particular itch. I’m very glad I did it as otherwise I think I’d always be wondering “could I have made a go of it?” I know that financially the answer is a resounding no and actually I didn’t really enjoy some of the compromises I had to make when my passion became a job. I did get some music released and had some brilliant experiences I would never have had without the time and space to “woodshed” and then get creative. I have no regrets and I’m lucky I have since found work that I can get immersed in.

But the point I wanted to make was that you are probably, unknown to you, taking baby steps towards something. I’m glad it worked out for me but I wonder if I could have achieved more if I’d been able to define what I wanted to achieve rather than wander along a path not really knowing where I was going… So where are you wandering towards with faltering baby steps? Can you define it? I hope you make it!

This was written as part of a forthcoming HR blog carnival being curated by Sukh Pabial on the subject of “Small steps” – relevant links etc to follow!

PS There’s nothing better as a blogger than knowing what you’ve written has had an impact on someone – hopefully positive, of course! So when Doug Shaw tweeted he had some feedback I was pleased. Then I read his link and was even more pleased! You can see his follow up post here:

2 Comments on “How far will your baby steps take you?

  1. Nicely done Tim. You get extra marks for guitars – and most importantly, for helping motivate me to go for a short run this morning. I’m not sure where I’m running to yet, maybe nowhere, but after a long period of absence, I’m on the road to…?

    Cheers – Doug

  2. Doug, you nailed it. I will be taking my bike out today so I can get ready for my June 14th six mile ride. All I ever needed was a little encouragement. Thanks

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