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Newsletter: Be Messy or Be Messi (March 15, 2024)

Recently, I've found myself repeating the quote "Be Messy or Be Messi" to friends, family, and colleagues, and I wanted to bring you in on the secret.

The "Be Messy" part communicates the importance of taking messy action and getting started on things, rather than waiting for the perfect moment (which never comes).

To "Be Messi" is the other side of the coin, which is being the best in the world at something, a nod to the world-famous soccer player, Lionel Messi (he was named the world's best player for a record eight times by FIFA 🤯).

Given its pretty hard to "Be Messi," it's in our best interest to "Be Messy" as much as possible.

Let's explore how you can put this concept into action in your own life.

How to take messy action

When faced with something challenging or overwhelming, instead of shrinking to avoid it, you can put your best foot forward and learn from the experience.

For example, this newsletter gives me a weekly chance to do that.

Knowing that this newsletter is read by people I respect and want to add value to their lives, I challenge myself to create something authentic and meaningful every week.

Of course, every week, my lizard brain starts to create excuse after excuse as to why I shouldn't publish something this week. Here are a few that are circulating this week:

  • I have not done enough drafts

  • No one else has proofread it

  • My original concept is not working out, so I'll shelve it this week

  • I've got too many other things on my plate

  • My thoughts are too scattered

  • I can't top last week

  • (Ad infinitum)

Here is my secret. I just put sh*t out there. If you go back and look at my first YouTube videos, they are absolute crap (please don't actually do that).

But over time, by just being messy, I've learned how to create a quality product that helps people move from point A to point B.

How do I teach this concept to students?

If you are wondering how to teach this concept to your students, here are a few ideas for you to play with.

Focus on process, more than outcomes

While I am a person who believes in results, and I use many features of a ROWE in my leadership philosophy, I firmly believe that to get better results, it is better not to focus on results.

To apply this in your classroom or coaching sessions, get clear on the routines that you can set up that you believe will foster student success.

When I ran a Counseling Enriched Classroom for students returning home from residential treatment, I built routines that encouraged and rewarded students to take messy action, every day.

Here are a few of them:

Have students start their day with a journal prompt

When students walked into the classroom, there was a journal prompt on the large screen. By getting their thoughts on paper, they immediately startstudent's their day by creating something. I also made it a point to buy each of my students a Moleskin journal so they felt the joy of keeping their thoughts in a traditional leather diary.

Make sure everyone has a job

Once students completed their journal entry, there was a large chart with their names and a small job running up and down the Y-axis and Monday through Friday running along the X-axis. These jobs included things like:

  • Restocking printer paper

  • Organizing the supplies area

  • Taking students' tea orders

  • Making coffee/tea

On the table chart, each of them would check off that they completed their job for that day, which was expected to be completed in the morning after their journal prompt.

Overall, the focus was on showing up and engaging, rather than some nebulous form of unachievable perfect.

The daily job chart in my Counseling Enriched Classroom

Encourage students to share drafts in advance

One of the best ways to put this practice into action, is to encourage your students to share their drafts in advance, so they can make changes BEFORE something is graded.

Hi (Teacher Name),

I’ve been working on the assignments, (assignment name) for your class and have completed a draft of it. 

Would you please review it and provide me with feedback on how I can get closer to achieving my goal of earning a (desired grade) on this assignment? 

Also, is there anything else you suggest I do to work toward my goal of earning a (desired grade) in your class? 

Thank you for your guidance. 


(Your Name)

If you like this template, you can download this and more in my Semester Success Blueprint course.

The bottom line

If you are feeling stuck, start by taking action. The process of taking action is incredibly clarifying and in many domains, often produces better work than things that are overly analyzed.

Journal Prompt

Where in your life could you take messy action, rather than "waiting for the right moment"?

(If you need some accountability, just reply to this email with your thoughts -- I actually read every response)

Want more of this?

If you are interested in having me run a workshop or speak to your teachers, parents, or staff about these concepts, check out my speaking page.

Stay engaged

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter for more insights on supporting your child's growth in their executive function skills.

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About the author

Sean G. McCormick is a former public school special education teacher who founded Executive Function Specialists to ensure all students with ADHD and Autism have access to high-quality online executive function coaching services. 

With this mission in mind, he then founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains schools, educators, and individuals to learn the key approaches to improve executive function skills for students.

He is also the co-founder of UpSkill Specialists, a business with a mission to provide adults with ADHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder, access to high-quality executive function coaching services that can be accessed through Self-Determination funding.

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EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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