Don't Take the Second Step... Start with the First

A friend sent me a poem this week. It did not beat around the bush, nor coddle me. But it did pierce my artist fears and encourage me to keep walking. one step at a time.

And now, this is exactly what I encourage you to do too!

Start with the first step. Unpack your cello. Don't start with the 60 minute practice session or even the Minuet you're practicing. Start with the first step.

Start with the ground you know. Tighten your bow hair. Tune your cello. Play a low C. Don't let questions from the outside smother something simple and beautiful. Let yourself breathe. Answer your own questions. 

Listen to your own voice through the cello. What is it telling you today? Become an ear for yourself and your cello. Be humble and focused. Choose practice chunks that are specific and measurable and not too long. 

for you: an action to make

I encourage you to take a few moments this week to read the following poem aloud during one of your practice sessions. Make a note of how this action affected your practice time. Let's talk about it at your next lesson! 

Start Close In

a poem by David Whyte

Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.

Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something

To find
another's voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a 
private ear
to another.

Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's 
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.

Start close in,
don't take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

Poet David Whyte grew up with a strong, imaginative influence from his Irish mother among the hills and valleys of his father’s Yorkshire. He now makes his home, with his family, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States.

The author of seven books of poetry and three books of prose, David Whyte holds a degree in Marine Zoology and has traveled extensively, including living and working as a naturalist guide in the Galapagos Islands and leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes the Amazon and the Himalaya. He brings this wealth of experience to his poetry, lectures and workshops.

His life as a poet has created a readership and listenership in three normally mutually exclusive areas: the literate world of readings that most poets inhabit, the psychological and theological worlds of philosophical enquiry and the world of vocation, work and organizational leadership.

An Associate Fellow at Templeton College and Said Business School at the University of Oxford, he is one of the few poets to take his perspectives on creativity into the field of organizational development, where he works with many European, American and international companies. In spring of 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Neumann College, Pennsylvania.

In organizational settings, using poetry and thoughtful commentary, he illustrates how we can foster qualities of courage and engagement; qualities needed if we are to respond to today’s call for increased creativity and adaptability in the workplace. He brings a unique and important contribution to our understanding of the nature of individual and organizational change particularly through his unique perspectives on Conversational Leadership.