It was fall 2005. I was seventeen then, and I found myself perched on one of the platforms at the local hall, looking at my friend Lawrence, who was doing skateboard tricks on the railings below. He’s one of those kids who had always preferred four wheels instead of two, and even with our eighteen years of friendship, I still think that he cares more for his skateboard than me.
He looked up at me, his face dripping with sweat, yet framed by a satisfied smile. He’s good with a board, and he knows it. He slowly came up the platform where I stood, breathing a little heavier than usual, and grinned at me deviously. “So are you ready to try it out?”
One of my college professors once told me to never take a job as an educator, unless I want my students to hate me with a passion. Apparently, I was too cocky. I didn’t blink when she said that: I guess a part of me knew she was telling the truth. But I always told myself I wasn’t that cocky—I was just always too gung-ho.
I gazed at the weathered board my friend was holding. Before that moment, I have never ridden a skateboard, nor have I thought of even trying. But the ever present spirit of gung-ho told me, “Hey, just do it! What can possibly go wrong?!”
I looked at Lawrence straight in the eyes and smiled. “Sure. Why not?”
The Rolling Ollie Debacle
Lawrence sat on the bottom stair leading to the platform and looked at me. I could see the satisfaction in his eyes, knowing that he somehow succeeded in that brief stint of being a skateboarding instructor. And after five long hours, he finally had success in teaching me how to mount a board, do turns, halt—and I finally managed to do my first successful basic ollie. He took one of the water bottles we brought and took a long draft. “You’re doing good Markee. Next time I’ll teach you how to do a rolling ollie.”
My mind did a quick math: I learned how to skate within the span of a few hours, that’s quite impressive, so a rolling ollie would have been a no-brainer. With his statement, Lawrence unknowingly pinged my gung-ho impregnated ego: “Do it! Show him your mad skills! DO IT!”
I winked at him and gave him a cheezy grin. “A rolling ollie? You mean like this?” And I took the board, rode it a few feet and tried an moving ollie.
The next thing I knew, Lawrence was rushing next to me, trying to help me up. I remember pain, blood and limping—in no particular order. Apparently, I did it wrong, fell and gashed my lower leg on the concrete. I remember looking down and seeing a long, bloody wound underneath my right knee. Lawrence looked at me with concern, and all I could say to him was, “Damn. That’s gonna be one cool scar.”
If there’s one lesson I learned from that incident—which I now refer to as the “Rolling Ollie Debacle”—it’s that most of the time, being gung-ho is not enough.
And in case you’re still wondering what gung-ho is up to this point, then let Dictionary.app clear it out:
Gung-ho adjective. unthinkingly enthusiastic and eager.
I don’t want to go into the details of the history of the word—that’s what Wikipedia is for. But to be clear, to be gung-ho is to be overly excited about doing something that you just dive into the fray without even thinking.
And unfortunately, being gung-ho leads to being faulty.
The Lie of Ease
That’s the gung-ho talking.
Gung-Ho is Never Enough!
No amount of enthusiasm can replace knowledge of how to do stuff. Sure, miracles can happen—like the time I successfully baked a cake for my friend’s birthday with no prior baking experiences—but it’s unusual. Even if you really want to do something, if you don’t have an inkling as to how to do that something in the first place, there’s a distinct possibly you’ll fail. Trust me, I know—I still have the scar on my right leg to prove it.
And the bigger your goal, the higher the risk is. If you fail in implementing a small widget for a personal blog, it’ll be okay—it’s just a small project after all. But if you’re talking about a large scale system, with hundreds of users and a dozen stakeholders, you could either do the right thing and learn the stuff before you do it, or pray to the Gods of Firebug that your gung-ho is strong enough to prevent any bugs.
Your Project Should Not Be a Rolling Ollie