Rookie Again . . .


Life doesn’t seem to be a continuous path of growing up and maturing.  At least not for me, anyway.  The path of life is more like a series of peaks and valleys (but with an overall upward slope), where the valleys represent the feeling of being a “rookie again”.

Let’s take the progression through school.  You enter school in either Kindergarten or the First Grade.  And you are definitely a rookie!  Everything is new, you are disoriented, not certain what is expected, a little timid.  And the kids in the other grades are so confident and capable.  But somehow you survive this rookie experience and before long you are now one of the big kids, a Fifth Grader.  Top of the world.  Oldest kids in the grammar school. King of the playground.

But then it happens, rookie again.  You move to a secondary school (for me it was Middle School and the 6th Grade) and again, everything is new, the rules are different, the expectations different, the routine of classes has changed.  And all the kids in the other grades are so much more confident and bolder. However, you survive the early years of middle school and wind up again as “kings of the school” as 8th graders. Confident and cocky.

But, you guessed it!  Rookie again.  this time as the bottom of the heap in high school. A lowly 9th grader.  The routine is new, the expectations greater, the school is new and bigger, and everyone above seems so confident.

I think you get the general pattern.  Life is a series of “being a rookie again”. We go to college or the military or enter the workforce and we are rookies again.  Everything different and strange.  We get married.  Definitely a rookie on that one and boy are the expectations and demands different. We change jobs.  Rookie again.  Etc., etc., etc.

Success in life, then, depends more on how we handle the “Rookie Again” experience than how we handle being at the top of the heap.  Both are transitory, passing experiences in time.  Yet some people make the mistake of believing and acting as is the feelings associated with being a rookie are permanent and somehow, insurmountable.

My daughter is off today to join the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for two weeks of practice and concerts in Leeds and London. She definitely has all the feelings of “rookie again”.  Nervous, feeling out-of-place, not knowing what to expect, not knowing if she will be accepted or not (most of the kids are from 15-18 while she is only 13).  A few sleepless nights and restless days have preceded this day.  This is what she has to look forward to;

I wish I had learned the concept of life as a series of perpetual “rookie experiences” when I was young.  I think with this understanding I would have handled situations differently and not been so caught up in the negative aspects of “being a rookie”.

Do you remember the many “rookie moments” in your life?

Tight Lines . . .

John R Childress

About johnrchildress

John Childress is a pioneer in the field of strategy execution, culture change, executive leadership and organization effectiveness, author of several books and numerous articles on leadership, an effective public speaker and workshop facilitator for Boards and senior executive teams. In 1978 John co-founded The Senn-Delaney Leadership Consulting Group, the first international consulting firm to focus exclusively on culture change, leadership development and senior team alignment. Between 1978 and 2000 he served as its President and CEO and guided the international expansion of the company. His work with senior leadership teams has included companies in crisis (GPU Nuclear – owner of the Three Mile Island Nuclear Plants following the accident), deregulated industries (natural gas pipelines, telecommunications and the breakup of The Bell Telephone Companies), mergers and acquisitions and classic business turnaround scenarios with global organizations from the Fortune 500 and FTSE 250 ranks. He has designed and conducted consulting engagements in the US, UK, Europe, Middle East, Africa, China and Asia. Currently John is an independent advisor to CEO’s, Boards, management teams and organisations on strategy execution, corporate culture, leadership team effectiveness, business performance and executive development. John was born in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and eventually moved to Carmel Highlands, California during most of his business career. John is a Phi Beta Kappa scholar with a BA degree (Magna cum Laude) from the University of California, a Masters Degree from Harvard University and was a PhD candidate at the University of Hawaii before deciding on a career as a business entrepreneur in the mid-70s. In 1968-69 he attended the American University of Beirut and it was there that his interest in cultures, leadership and group dynamics began to take shape. John Childress resides in London and the south of France with his family and is an avid flyfisherman, with recent trips to Alaska, the Amazon River, Tierra del Fuego, and Kamchatka in the far east of Russia. He is a trustee for Young Virtuosi, a foundation to support talented young musicians. You can reach John at or
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6 Responses to Rookie Again . . .

  1. mimijk says:

    I used to call this being at the bottom of the triangle…rising up to its apex and then starting at the bottom again..


  2. Yep. You’ve nailed it John. Entering and exiting rookie-dom on an ongoing basis. 🙂


  3. Elyse Pintar says:

    “Success in life, then, depends more on how we handle the “Rookie Again” experience than how we handle being at the top of the heap.”

    This concept is exactly what I needed to see put in succinct words. I help moderate a message board for nurses and nursing students. Many of the experienced nurses try to make others believe they are “top of the heap” when they are “Rookie Again”.(new job, new specialty, new electronic medical record etc) It appears they fear any sort of humility will be interpreted by others as an invitation be treated like a doormat. Adopting the alpha-nurse persona is not difficult by comparison but it alienates the newer nurses. How much more do we learn by facing that fear and resolving to do the best we can to grow through it. For me, asking a new grad to teach me something is pretty magical.

    I’m going to try to include this idea in my posts there. Most likely I’ll take the oblique approach so they don’t bite my head off. 🙂 — Thanks


  4. Raunak says:

    wow!!! I love the “rookie again” concept and have I experienced it or what! puts my entire life and the present into perspective…but I think some people are more prone to landing themselves in this situation. I always end up feeling like one because I always seek new paths, new domains. Now I’m so used to it that not feeling like a Rookie for an extended period makes me uncomfortable.


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