One more time, till you’ve got this
My cousin recently found a photo of me as a 13-year old.
I look profoundly unimpressed. I also look about 25.
Good thing I stopped styling my hair. And started laughing out loud at the absurdity of the universe. Lifts the years right off ya.
Still, I posted it on facebook for my old friends from home to see and laugh at with me.
Those who knew me and loved me then, despite the grump. Those who still know and love me. The people who knew me before I could ride a bike. Before I had a Cambridge education. Before I had proven anything.
And as you do, I tagged some folks with words to this effect. “Remember me back then? Those of you who have always been there, custodians and guardians of my life.”
My cousins replied: “Love you, always.”
My friends replied with cryptic phrases including “fried cheese”. I know what they mean. That’s what 40 years of friendship brings. A secret language.
But my old Coach said thank you. He said: “Thank you, these are big words for someone who often feels small.”
Small? To me he was always a giant.
One more time, you’ve got this
Now. I had an incredibly supportive mother. A family who surrounded me with a love so fierce, not even a head cold could get past them. I have friends old and loyal and true.
But that was never all and it would never have been enough.
There are moments in your life, like the mouse army that teach you a lot. There are periods in your life that teach you a lot. There are people in your life that teach you a lot, whether they mean to or not.
Sometimes you know you are learning valuable life lessons in the moment.
Most times you don’t.
The reality of our most formative experiences is that they often come too early for us to know how differentiating they are. For instance, I have an awesome mother but it took a very long time for me to know that my “normal” was not everyone’s normal and my mother was unusual in a million different ways, all of which gave me wings.
But we may also miss the impact of our formative experiences that come later, because they are too stressful to feel valuable in the moment.
Rolling back a major release. Losing a client. Realising you missed something major in a plan. Being backstabbed by a colleague.
All of those situations teach you a lot, but, in the moment, all you feel is bile in your mouth, a hollowness in the pit of your stomach and a fight or flight urge that sets your brain buzzing until you fix, mend, redress, re-establish, shore up, secure.
Sure, afterwards, when the dust settles, the ship is sailing right again and enough time has passed for your emotions to mature into perspective, you will get the learning. But it is not an unadulterated or uncomplicated bit of life wisdom. It comes with scars and bruises. It comes with hurt and fear.
It’s useful. But it’s complicated.
And although I wouldn’t have it any other way, I am also conscious that the learning is contextual. In the detail. Burdened and personal. It’s the experience we can’t buy, share or short-circuit and so much of it is hard to pass on despite how much we want to protect our teams from making the same mistakes and blunders.
Ultimately, making them is part of the journey. Part of the story. Part of the deal.
So if we can’t do this, what do we do, to help people the way others helped us, when it’s our turn to do so?
I guess the first thing to do is pause and ask: what has helped the most?
I am 12. I have literally swallowed half the Aegean sea in a manoeuvre that really didn’t work out. It’s 6am. I am in the water where I have been every morning of this summer and the summer before and the summer before.
Not the beach. The sea.
Practicing and failing and swallowing sea water, because before you know how to do something, comes the period of learning. And falling flat on your face. The period of no grace and ease. The period of grit and perseverance. Practice and dogged determination. And a bellyful of sea water.
Two of my friends are on the boat waiting their turn. They mock, but lovingly. It’s their turn next and the shoe will be on the other foot.
We are training for a trick water skiing championship later in the summer and I cannot stay on my feet.
“One more time,” says my Coach. “You’ve got this. One. More. Time.”
I really didn’t have it.
But I went at it. Again and again and again. Every day.
And every day he said, “you’ve got this”. And every day we got together and tried.
Our Coaches. The team. And the water.
Now. That was 30 years ago.
Life has happened for all of us.
My one and only medal from the one and only championship I turned up for is in a drawer in my parents’ house. A bronze medal lying tangled with a silver that the organisers gave to my then three year-old sister to stop her from crying. And that, right there, is a life lesson of sorts. But not the one I want you to learn, truth be told.
I haven’t water skied in 25 years. Not since one of our two Coaches died in a car crash.
But the things I learned with that team and those Coaches on those early mornings of swallowing sea water every time I got the turn wrong and plunged face first into the surf… they are with me always:
The team is a value in itself. You look after them. They look after you.
The reason we do this is each other.
Not the medals, not the accomplishment. Not even the crazy heady feeling of freedom you get gliding on water with the sun rising above the horizon.
We commit to each other to meet on this beach at 5.30am every day, so we do.
We commit to each other to compete together. So we look after ourselves and each other.
And we learn to keep trying.
Because Coach said, “one more time, you can do this”. And you do it for him and by accident get to do it for yourself.
His name is Nikos Varvoglis. And he was right.
You get the job.
The job you didn’t even go for but found yourself taking anyway. And you are doing your best. But the job is part doing the thing you are paid to do and part evangelising for the organisation to let you do it – and, man alive, nobody wants to hear it.
They are not unkind.
They are not obstructive.
They are just not interested.
But you need them to be interested or this won’t work.
You have a lot of good things to give them but you can’t give unless they take and there are no takers. They are not saying no. But they are not saying yes.
You are turning up every morning on this new metaphorical beach, falling flat on your face, swallowing half the ocean and getting nowhere.
But you get up the next day and do it again.
Not because you remember Coach saying “you’ve got this” but because he said “one more time” so many times, keeping on keeping on became second nature.
One more time.
It’s not even a choice. We committed. So we turn up and we do our best.
One more time.
Until the day comes when someone says, “ok, I am listening”.
And before long they are not just listening, they are opening doors wide but keeping the training wheels on. Invisible to both the world and, most importantly, to you.
So you learn what you can do. You demonstrate what you can do. You keep turning up on the beach but you are no longer swallowing water.
And your career takes off. And once you have your proof points, and you know what you can do and the world knows what you can do, the next thing gets a little easier.
And you learn to believe in yourself. Because your mentor said you’ve got this.
Off you go, you’ve got this, she says.
Off you go, I’ve got you, she means.
Her name is Adriana Pierelli. And she was right.
It’s your turn. Now what?
We all have our stories.
We all have our guardian angels.
We all have the people who inspired and supported us.
They often have no idea how much they’ve done for us (like Coach) or don’t believe their impact was unique and irreplaceable (like Adriana). And maybe their ability to write themselves out of your story, out of my story, is part of their legacy and their gift and their greatness. It really was not about them. Not then. Not now.
But if I look back over the years, to every professional success but above all and most importantly to every reversal, challenge, problem or seeming disaster the go-to mantras are always simple. And it was never-ever “you’ve got this”.
It was “I’ve got you”.
It was the visceral boost of knowing people have your back even if they can’t do anything for you in the moment. Even when they can’t help with the thing, whatever it is. Only you can do that. But they are there and they’ve got you.
And while life happens and the team assembles and your friends always watch out for you, the most valuable lesson and the most fundamental instinct is: get up. Try again. One more time. Until you’ve got this. The hard yards are not optional. And only you can do it for you. But you are not alone while doing it.
And now you are here.
And you’ve got this.
And you know how you got here so you know how to get there, and the deal is simple.
It’s time to pay it forward.
To the next guy and gal.
The deal is simple.
You can’t hand it over.
You can’t do it for them. You can’t learn it for them.
You turn up.
You open doors, you set the north star, you build the guard rails, you stand by and say: “You’ve got this. One. More. Time. And again.”
One. More. Time. You’ve got this – until they do, just like you did. And then it’s their turn.
That’s the deal.
And then, if you can learn from the greats, you bow out and look on.
Because this isn’t your story forever.
So while it’s your turn, make it good. And whatever you do, don’t make it about you.
By Leda Glyptis
Leda Glyptis is FinTech Futures’ resident thought provocateur – she leads, writes on, lives and breathes transformation and digital disruption.
She is a recovering banker, lapsed academic and long-term resident of the banking ecosystem.
All opinions are her own. You can’t have them – but you are welcome to debate and comment!