The best part about being a sophomore is, you’re not a freshman anymore

Going from zero to one is significantly different than going from one to two.

Because the first time you have an experience, you’re just a rookie. You don’t have the benefit of context, comparison, data, precedent and perspective.

And so, the event makes you feel blindsided. Disoriented. Like somebody pulled the rug out from under you.

Here’s an example of a zero to one experience from my own career.

While working as brand manager at a travel startup, two of the executive leaders from our corporate headquarters came to visit our office. We were so excited they were coming to town. Seemed like a good chance to connect and learn through brainstorming sessions, team lunches and happy hours.

This was going to be great.

I remember bounding into that office on their first day in town with a smile on my face and a box of donuts under my arm, only to be called into the conference room with the rest of team.

Let me tell you, the air in that room was so thick, you could drink it from a straw.

Turns out, those executives weren’t there for a friendly visit. They came in town to announce our office was closing. The powers that be were doing company wide layoffs, and our crew was on the cut list.

Have you ever been in that kind of situation before?  Remember the first time you were blindsided by layoffs, downsizing, a sudden breakup or something similar?

It’s awful. Because your brain doesn’t know what to do with that kind of event. There’s no mental hook onto which that experience can hang. That’s why it’s so damn disorienting. You’re getting language for the first time around something you’ve previously never been exposed to. It’s a lot to process.

And so, the distance from zero to one is massive. There’s a substantial shift in your frame of reference. You lose your innocence. What you think you know about the world the day before the event happens pales in comparison to what you discover immediately afterwards.

That brings us to the second equation. Going from one to two.

This is a much smaller distance than zero to one. Because when the shit hits the fan the second time, you’ve already smelled it before. You have context.

As my high school history teacher used to joke, the best part about being a sophomore is, you’re not a freshman anymore.

You may not know everything, but once you know anything, at least that’s something, and that’s is a hell of a lot better than what you knew before, which was nothing.

Here’s an example of a one to two experience from my own career.

At a different startup job, the two founders were conducting our routine monthly business review. And the president said he had a big announcement to make.

Our company was being acquired by a larger organization.

Man, the collective sphincter of our team tightened up like a snare drum.

Holy shit, what does this mean? Are we splitting up? Being replaced? Getting promoted and relocating to big, fancy office?

The tension ran high. And the executives weren’t legally allowed to share anything with the broader team until the following week.

My own feelings of fear, confusion, excitement and curiosity were activated. It was an emotional cocktail if there ever was one.

But what surprised me was, there was also this profound sense of peace that was new to me. Despite these outward events jostling me with velocity and turbulence, my core kept me steady.

Because unlike my zero to one experience from a few years prior, I had seen this movie before. My life had already prepared me to handle this. Whether my job continued with that company or not, it was going to be okay.

Appropriately enough, I had an anxiety dream later that night.

An old client was on my ass. Scott, she warned me, you’re scheduled to deliver two back to back workshops this afternoon on customer service, so get your shit together! As she walked away in a huff, my dream self calmly said, excuse me, but no, I’m not. This isn’t real. This isn’t my job anymore. I don’t have to do anything.

Then I woke up.

Wow, that never would have happened to me during zero to one. But during one to two, it’s different. I wasn’t a freshman anymore.

Once I knew anything, at least that was something, and it was a hell of a lot better than what I knew before, which was nothing.

Lesson learned, get from zero to one as fast as you can. Because the more you do, the more you understand what doing means, and that knowledge will inform each of your subsequent decisions.

If you’ve worked enough on yourself, you don’t need anything. Trust that there is training you already have that you can apply to whatever you want. 

What will happen during your sophomore year?


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Author. Speaker. Strategist. Songwriter. Filmmaker. Inventor. Gameshow Host. World Record Holder. I also wear a nametag 24-7. Even to bed.
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