Start Here

“The expert at anything was once a beginner.” - Helen Hayes

By: Lauren Broussard, Co-Founder, The Memo

Over the holidays, I came across a beautiful ad from Poland, “English for Beginners.” The ad is for the popular online Polish auction platform, Allegro. It begins with an elderly man ordering “English For Beginners” online. We see him throughout the ad teaching himself English at home, by practicing words aloud and by labeling everything in his house with a Post It note (including his dog).

He practices everywhere you can imagine—in front of the mirror, on the bus, while watching a movie, and even in the tub. It’s especially humorous and heartwarming when he practices aloud in public. “I love you! You are perfect,” he says while on the bus, seated behind a young woman who turns around in surprise, only to find him with headphones on and talking to himself. Neighborhood kids giggle at him in another scene. He doesn’t seem to care, though. The adorable man is working with a goal in mind. Later on in the ad, he makes another purchase through Allegro, this time for a suitcase. Finally, it becomes obvious what he’s been practicing for. I won’t spoil the whole thing - watch the video. We can all use a little uplifting.

(Warning for strong language around the 1:30 mark.)

(I'm not crying. You're crying.)

There are so many lessons to be learned from this video. What I was reminded of though, is that we all have things we want to do, both personally and professionally, for a reason that is oftentimes bigger than ourselves. At the end of the ad, in Polish, are two questions: "And you? What are you looking for?"

What’s something you have been putting off in your career or in your life? Maybe you were afraid. Perhaps you did not want to be wrong, or look foolish. Or maybe you just did not know where to begin.

A dear friend of mine, for example, wanted to become a programmer. They started reading and started practicing. Armed with a liberal arts degree, some self-taught skills, and a desire to keep learning, they'd sit on the bus on the way to work every day, reading programming books, and then would go home in the evenings to practice what they'd learned. Last year, they landed their dream job as a software developer!

A few summers ago, I realized I’d been putting off really learning to swim. So I started “swim lessons,” thanks mainly to the patience of many of my friends and colleagues who instructed me, let me borrow their pools, or watched me flop around in a pool that summer like an injured fish. (Thanks also to the teenage boy at Target who explained to a 30ish year old me how to put on a swim cap). I’m still nowhere near an expert, but am glad I started learning.

Being or doing anything begins, first, with deciding to just do it. Maybe you want to learn a new language, change careers, or teach yourself a new skill. Maybe you want to travel more. Maybe you have dreams of getting to the C-Suite, but you’re working in a job that makes you feel stuck. Maybe you’ve been meaning to reach out to your elected officials, but were afraid to make the call.

Whatever your thing is, decide today that you will go for it. Put your feet on the starting line. Tell yourself that no amount of fear, embarrassment, or procrastination will stop you. Then start putting in the work.

Whatever it is you want to do, start today. Start here.