Getting back to beginner’s luck

From Scot MacTaggart, host of The Pitchwerks Podcast and cofounder of local strategy firm KRNLS, The Werkshop helps readers to scrutinize and practice a different sales or business development skill every month.

The monolith cometh. (Gif via Giphy.com)

Have you ever watched a new teammate make a big splash, only to have it waved off as “beginner’s luck”? It’s odd to me, watching someone minimize an unexpected victory.

Personally, I got tired of it over 10 years ago. I realized why, too. It’s because of how frustrating it is to watch someone be robbed of their enthusiasm and slowed down. The veterans put the new people in check, and it’s toxic.

And since beginner’s luck is common enough that we actually have a name for it, I figured it had to be real at some level. Not as leprechaun magic, but as the inevitable result of certain repeatable conditions. So I set about proving it, and tried to be brand-new again.

It was pretty easy for me though. As a consultant I frequently get tossed in, brand-new, to an unfamiliar company or industry. I’m always the new guy, so I have had a lot of practice. Over time, I went from being stiffer and more authoritative to being comfortable in my newness.

When I first thought up the plan you’ll see below, my consulting business was just a side hustle, and my day job was an executive position where I had responsibility for employees and outcomes. My sense of responsibility dictated that any experimentation should be confined to my own business. Things expanded quickly though, and eventually I touched base with the ownership group. I asked if they had any problems with my side work, and the president of that company said something I will never forget.

“Scot, every time you take a break and work on outside projects, you come back better at your job. We like it.”

That bit of encouragement proved that my efforts were paying off. I committed to being a beginner again, using the following mindset tricks to help me:

Get hype. Attitude is everything, and the new person is usually trying to make friends, build a network, and hit the bonuses in their offer letter. Honestly, my guess is that the beginner attitude is 50% of the recipe for beginner’s luck.

Yank the dead wood out of your schedule. Unsubscribe from useless email newsletters. Don’t take meetings you don’t have to. Change your calendar default to 15 or 30 minutes instead of 60. New people have a lot of time.

Get outside again. It’s impossible to (quickly) go back to being an outsider in an industry, but I assumed that I could study the mindset by just surrounding myself with, y’know, normal people. Re-learning to talk to outsiders…to talk like outsiders. More priority thinking, less in-the-weeds thinking. This is hard to remember sometimes, but it’s really no different than the market research and customer discovery we do when launching a new product.

Say less. When you got started, you didn’t have a choice, since you didn’t really know that much back then. The buyer got to talk more, and since the usual reason the buyer is talking to you is that they want to buy your product, nature just takes its course. That is, if you remember to allow it.

Treat each meeting and proposal as a chance to shine. Do your research. Try to look your best. New people do their best, because they are trying to form good habits.

This Month’s Challenge: Adopt the tricks I did, and add them to your planner. Put all five tasks on each day of your calendar, morning and evening. Remind yourself in the morning and evaluate your progress in the evening. Try to make it feel like a new job – like a stranger in your own office.

Tweet me at @pitchwerks and let me know how things are going.

Series: StartNow PGH

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