Baby steps are better than Big Miraculous Giant Ones

First of all, because a Big Miraculous Giant (BMG) step does not exist.

Death taps on your left shoulder

I faced death once when I was young. I faced it again on April 26th 2013, when a car hit me while I was biking.

Realizing, after becoming airborne at 30 km/h for 2/3 of the street intersection and landing on the concrete sidewalk, that:

  1. I’m not dead
  2. Even better, I’m in one piece
  3. I only suffered from a concussion and a sore neck, with the only lasting consequence being a tenacious tinnitus that taught me to grieve silence.

I took 3 life changing decisions:

1 – Stop complaining about my job

2 – Stop being a consenting victim

3 – Stop lying to myself

The BMG problem

Up and until then, I did not like my job and it was always someone else’s fault. I pretended I liked it, and was able to fake it (without even being aware of it) for a couple of years, then I had to make an important change, hoping for a BMG change, that was supposed to finally make me happy. Of course, it never happened that way, drastically changing job took time, negotiations, and frustrations as all I wanted was to flee, hoping the ill-at-ease feeling would not follow me.

But since the ill-at-ease feeling came from the inside, guess what happened when the bungee elastic reached its limit as I was fleeing to another BMG change…

Ouch!

I love science, I love engineering, and I love technology, but what makes me forget to go pee, what makes me forget to eat is arts and creativity.

What makes you forget to go pee? What makes forget to eat?

I became a developer and I really loved it; well, one aspect to be precise. Then I became a UNIX sys. Admin., and I really loved it, well, one aspect to be precise. Then a project manager and I really love…, well, no, not really; then a solution architect, then an enterprise architect…

Not many organizations offer the opportunity to change so drastically within the company.

I was not really doing anything to improve the situation because I did not understand it; I was scared and it was, somehow, easier to remain in that state because it allowed me to complain and shift responsibility to anything outside of me.

I realized I was applying the BMG step process, which is fictitious: BMG changes do not exist.

BMG Step
BMG steps, even if they existed, make you jump over life instead of going through it

And even when you think BMG change exists, that you’ve lived one, the method does not prepare you for handling the new state as you jumped over Life instead of going through it. You haven’t learned anything, you haven’t experienced anything, you haven’t taken the time to digest and internalize anything. Is it sustainable?

You miss Life when you hope for the Big Miraculous Giant Step

Death taps on your left shoulder

When Death tapped on my left shoulder for the second time, telling me: “that’s enough dude!”, I decided to change.

I started drafting my life mission statement and worked hard at understanding who I was, at identifying my core values, the ones that you can’t disrespect or ignore without seeing your life becoming miserable.

And in doing so, I realized what is now obvious for me:

I was happy when I was creating. That’s what felt like home for me. Programming requires creativity, writing requires creativity; solving problems requires creativity. Art requires creativity.

Baby steps

And I applied this simple rule, with ups and downs and panic attacks and confidence and moments of despair and fear and trust:

Every morning, when I wake up, I think of what tiny baby step I can make to get closer to a goal I have set for myself.

Baby steps are easy, as easy as “today, I will look the Coursera web site up”, or “today, I will buy a set of drawing pencils”.

The baby steps approach is a convoluted one, just like Life, and you can’t predict what will happen before you dive and live it fully! And you will only be able to connect the dots after, as Steve Jobs said.

Baby Steps vs BMG Step
Baby Steps are better than Big Miraculous Giant Ones

Through this maze of baby steps (life!), I had an important A-ha moment: my job is to solve problems and, problem solving requires creativity! How come we don’t use creativity tools and techniques used in Graphic Design, Advertisement, screen writing, movie making, theatrical plays, etc., in our engineering work? Maybe I can come up with a creativity workshop for problem solving? I did 🙂

What I’ve learned running Pixar applies to all businesses. I apply the term ‘creativity’ broadly… It’s problem solving. We are all faced with problems and we have to address them and think of something new and that’s where creativity comes in.

– Ed Catmull, computer scientist and president of Pixar.

The BMG step is a lie

The Big Giant Miraculous Step does not exist. Well, actually it does exist if you go through life instead of jumping above it; and there’s a formula for it:

BMG equation

In retrospect (you can only connect the dots after), with tiny baby steps every day (e.g.: think of a blog name and buy the domain, start drawing again, start reading Ed Catmull’s book, start writing again, redo your C.V in a single visual page, start learning about graphic design, start reading about Presentation Zen, etc.); with all those baby steps, I’ve achieved a BMG step which made me much happier: I created and ran a creative workshop, I’m driving a creative Graphic Design project, and I incorporate more and more elements of arts, graphic design and creativity in my work. And I had the privilege to win the best price there is from my organization: A voucher to learn! With it, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Robert McKee’s seminar on storytelling and to finally start drawing lessons at the Montreal’s Fine-Arts Academy!

Slowly, one baby step at a time, I’m doing my best merging creativity and design into my job, and justifiably so, it’s a necessity when your job is to solve problems!

And it’s à la mode now to steal (like an artist!) ideas from the world of Design Thinking and applying it in what we thought were non related fields: sales, engineering, etc.

Baby steps are your friends

Life mission statements and core values give you your bearing, your long term goal. It’s never a straight line, there will be many waypoints and even the goals can change.

  1. Baby steps help you experience first-hand a small change, evaluate impact, learn from it and adapt.
  2. Baby steps allow you to evaluate and assess the path you are taking, on a regular basis, and change course or waypoint when necessary.
  3. Baby steps have baby consequences. You learn a lesson and backtrack; it’s not a failure, it’s a step in the (new) right direction!
  4. Baby steps allow you to explore and learn, constantly.
  5. Every baby step you achieve becomes your new baseline: you have improved! What was outside of your comfort zone becomes part of your comfort zone after a bit of practice. You can take another step. Your learning zone grows while your danger zone (too far outside of your comfort zone) shrinks.
  6. You learn better in baby steps, as it gives you the opportunity to practice each small bit of acquired knowledge and internalize it through repetition and practice.
  7. Baby steps allow you to strategize a new course of action when needed, using all the new baby skills you have internalized.

Twelve Strategy Rules

And so I do my best to apply the following 12 rules in my life, every day:

  1. Don’t lie to yourself.
  2. State facts. Facts are neutral.
  3. Admit and adjust when you are wrong. It does not make sense to hold on to something that no longer makes sense
  4. Discuss your idea, and implement quickly, in baby steps. It’s the only way to be creative: a good scene comes after throwing away 90 others. But you cannot come up with a good scene if you haven’t tried and experienced the 90 others. Avoid never-ending meta-discussions.
  5. Mission, core message, storyline: draft them early, adjust and correct.
  6. Do not let fear guide your future. Do not let fear guide your project.
  7. Do not try to change others.
  8. Change yourself.
  9. Don’t look back, don’t look at the competition, look forward and aim at becoming the best you can be.
  10. Learn, every day. It’s easy when done in baby steps.
  11. Be creative, you need it if your job is to solve problems.
  12. Do your best, always; it’s the best you can do.

9 thoughts on “Baby steps are better than Big Miraculous Giant Ones

  1. Karim, je soutiens aussi cette théorie, d’ailleurs elle s’inscrit dans la philosophie de Lacan, qui situe trois zones : Imaginaire, Symbolique et Réel. En voici une présentation succinte par l’ingénieur et psychologue Marc Pavageau :
    http://www.lesentretiensdesarts.fr/v/presentation-generale

    Toutefois je voudrais signaler qu’il est possible de faire une rupture, un changement radical de direction. Ce virage sera supporté par des Petits Pas de préparation avant la date fatidique, puis une avancée pas à pas une fois le virage pris. C’est mon cas, j’ai arrêté cette semaine dans mon poste d’ingénieur chargée de projet, et je commence des études de psychologie, je vais pratiquer le théâtre, le clown, la danse et le chant, tout cela dans un but de transformation sociale, c’est-à-dire rendre la vie dans notre société plus agréable. Mes Petits Pas, avant la rupture, ont été : Pratiquer le théâtre de l’Opprimé, animer des pratiques de français (j’habite en Espagne), m’inscrire ponctuellement à des ateliers de Clown ou de danse, être en contact avec des associations d’accueil des immigrés. Ce sont bien ces petits pas des dernières années qui aujourd’hui me rassurent et me permettent de donner une direction à mon grand virage.

    Karim, merci de partager tes pensée, ce sont des belles réflexions.
    Bérénice

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merci infiniment Bérénice pour tes commentaires très pertinents et pour le lien que je prendrai le temps de consulter!

      Tu as raison, les ruptures, parfois drastiques, sont nécessaires et possibles. On réalise parfois que telle ou telle petite chose que l’on avait faite, entamée, apprise, ou essayée bien avant a en fait contribué à réaliser cette rupture; on ne fait le lien qu’après coup.

      Ma propre expérience m’a montré que si je voulais réussir l’après-rupture, je ne pouvais le faire qu’à petits pas, préparant et favorisant du fait même non plus une rupture radicale, mais un transition plus douce et sans doute plus saine pour moi et ma famille.

      Like

  2. Quelle leçon de vie ! Bien qu’un tiers plus âgée que toi, j’apprends de tes réflexions profondes et de la systématisation de ta pensée. J’adopte les 12 règles de vie !

    Like

    1. Me voilà bien heureux de savoir que ces quelques règles que j’applique de mon mieux dans toutes les sphères de mon unique vie inspirent d’autres personnes à en faire de même. Et j’ai à apprendre, ne fut-ce que de ce que le tiers supplémentaire de tranche de vie que tu as t’as enseigné!

      Like

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