One weekend in 3rd grade I left my homework assignment at school. Some time on Saturday, I remembered I left my assignment at school and was distraught to realize I would be empty-handed Monday morning when everyone else turned in their work. I remember sitting in my bedroom and trying to think through my options.
My teacher that year was Mrs. Wylie. There aren’t many phrases I recall verbatim from early elementary school, but I can still hear Mrs. Wylie telling our class, “I have no uses for excuses” when she covered the class rules. It is seared into my brain, a lesson I’ll always remember.
It’s a little hard for me to say why this particular assignment was so important to my 3rd grade mind. I sketched out an elaborate heist plan to ride my bike a mile and half, sneak into the school, find a way into the classroom, and retrieve the assignment before my parents realized I was gone and had forgotten my homework at school.
My mom noticed I was a bit withdrawn, and after a bit of prodding she was able to find out I was worried because I didn’t bring my work home. We talked about it, and she asked me what I remembered about the assignment. As we talked about it, she encouraged me to do as much of the work as I could remember. This sounded like a terrible plan, because I wasn’t sure it would qualify under the “no uses for excuses” policy. Eventually my mom convinced me to give it a try, and finished everything I could remember about my task.
Monday morning, I turned in my work and included a little note about why it may not have been everything mentioned in the assignment. When I got my graded paper back the next day there was a note from Mrs. Wylie. She was pleased I had worked so hard, even though it would’ve been easy to not turn anything in.
Life is kind of like that homework assignment. We have a vague idea of what we’re supposed to do with it, but it’s up to us to decide how we finish it. In your career, it pays to be comfortable with a bit of uncertainty and to approach each day with the determination you are going to get shit done. When I got married, when we had kids, no gave me an instruction booklet with a detailed daily planner to be a successful husband and dad.
It’s easy for all the things we don’t know to hold our attention. The hard work is to start withwhat we know needs to be done, do everything we can to make it work, and get up the next day to build on what we did the day before.