From Untethered Marionette to Unstoppable Master

From clumsy to proficient

Myrna L Selzler
3 min readFeb 25, 2021

The world presents a different perspective when you are face down in a snow bank.

The lesson? Well, take a lesson when you want to learn something new.

I did. Last week, I took a cross-country ski lesson and got the perspective of an untethered marionette as my arms and legs were flailing in all directions.

It was cold. The skis were long and skinny. No balance for this puppet. The 30-year-old bamboo ski poles from my garage were not an asset.

But the sky was a brilliant blue. The snow was crisp. My body was deliciously warm from all the effort. My face, chilled by the cool air, shone with a smile as bright as the winter sun.

Back and forth in the track. “Run, run, run, get up some speed and then lift your leg behind you.” The instructor is encouraging.

“Squish the bug,” the instructor tells me, an image he gives his younger students to create the vision of pushing off.

The thrill of trying something new is dampened by the realization that I am a rookie. I prefer skill. But if I only do things I am good at, my life will stay pretty much the same.

I have that human desire to continue to evolve. I also have the human desire not to look foolish.

“It’s the start that stops most people.” So said Don Shula, a legendary coach in the National Football League.

When we are starting something new, we experience three primary emotions:

  • Cynicism
  • Fear
  • Acceptance.

This description of emotions tied into some other reading I was doing about the 10 Rep Rule. We do:

  • 10 reps for feel
  • 100 reps for momentum
  • 1,000 reps for mastery

This rule suggests if you try something new, commit to doing it 10 times over 30 days. After 10 repetitions, you will have a good idea if you like the activity.

Know that before 10, it is easy to quit — a cynical attitude with no results, no rhythm, “conscious incompetence.”

After 10 experiences, it is easier to compare how you feel pre- and post-effort. At this point, it is fair to decide if the experience is worth the effort.

Years ago, I committed to running.

Before I would go to sleep at night, I would tell myself what I would say in the morning to propel myself out of bed.

The alarm would ring. I would rollover. Then a voice in my head would say:

“It’s OK, Myrna, you can stay in bed. You don’t need to run.”

Two deep breaths.

“But if you don’t run, everything stays the same.” Sigh. My feet would hit the floor.

If there is value in the experience, commit to doing it 100 times. After 100 times, you will have momentum.

After 100 runs, I could see and feel the progress. I could not go away for a weekend without my running gear. I made all kinds of accommodations to stick to my commitment because it felt good.

The sore legs merged into muscle. The burning chest became a regular breath. Skin covered with glistening white salt crystals from evaporated perspiration would wash clean and feel smooth and pure.

I knew I was a faster, better runner than all those people sitting on their couches watching TV. Not faster and better than most runners, but faster and better than I had been the first 10 runs.

I was enjoying the journey. The fear of being a “bad” runner was a distant memory.

With the comfort of the rhythm of 100 more attempts, mastery will evolve on the path to 1,000 repetitions.

The 1,000 repetitions make you who you now are — you now can accept the new you. You are different from the person who struggled to complete the first 10 efforts.

As leaders, we need the patience and perspective that gives our people the grace to move from 10 clumsy attempts to 100 pretty proficient efforts to 1,000 competent activities.

Be the gifted leader ready to catch the untethered marionette:

  • Encourage through the clumsy
  • Coach through to proficient
  • Mentor to be an unstoppable master.
  • It will give them and you a new perspective.



Myrna L Selzler

Lifelong entrepreneur sharing tips on — and insights into — leadership development.