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You Have to Learn to Walk Before You Can Run

By Randy Logsdon

In the fall of 1946, the Chicago Daily News ran a feature article on veterans attending college at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana) under the GI Bill. A focus of the article was married student (barracks-style) housing in an area between Memorial Stadium and the railroad right-of-way known as Stadium Terrace.

My father, mother and my infant brother were residents of Stadium Terrace. My brother was featured and a photograph published by virtue of the fact that at the unbelievable age of six months, he was walking. It was my brother’s first claim to fame.

Anyone who has been even remotely involved in bringing up children understands the excitement of the first step, the first word uttered, the first solid food consumed, first day of school and any number of accomplishments that the rest of us take for granted. Yet, these are the first steps to the development of a child for which we have high hopes.

For the most part, these accomplishments follow an ordered sequence. The age-old wisdom that you have to learn to walk before you can run applies

Even those with the loftiest goals for their children understand that each child must progress through this series of interim goals along the path.

In October, I underwent left knee replacement surgery. The right knee was done in 2010. The rehabilitation experience from both of these surgeries reminds me of how important interim goals can be. Understand that these are not complex or inherently valuable goals. They are goals that are not unlike the infant taking his or her first step. Yet, I relished in the accomplishment of each of those goals during my rehabilitation, understanding that each was a step along the path of returning to productive employment.

First Goals
One of the first goals was simply being able to stand and place weight on the left leg. That soon followed short walks using a walker for support. The rehabilitation focused on restoring strength and flexibility.

Being able to elevate my left leg without assistance was a major accomplishment. Reaching 90-degree flexion, then 100-degree and 110-degree were huge. Transitioning from the walker to a cane brought praises from my family and from the therapist as did finally ditching the cane. When I was able to ride my stationary bike without pointing my left toe, I knew that I was very near my goal.

I accomplished my main goal by accomplishing each interim goal in order and I did return to work.

If you haven’t already determined the point of these ramblings, it is that we all have ultimate safety goals. They are commonly expressed in terms of improved compliance or preventing injuries or damage. What we sometimes forget is that we do have to learn to walk before we can run.

Once we understand that a goal of “Zero Accidents” is accomplished by following an ordered (and planned) sequence, then we can take that first step.

It requires some work along the way.

In my rehab, I did not reach the interim goal of 90-degree knee flexion out of sheer will. I engaged in a series of exercises focused on flexion of the knee. I used ice and elevation to limit swelling. Consider what form of therapy would be required to achieve your first interim goal. Will it require training? Reassignment of personnel? Rewriting operation procedures? Investment in tools or equipment? A measure of discipline? What exercises will prepare and lead the organization to successful accomplishment of that first interim goal?

Then, what new therapy will be added to reach the next goal and the one after that. The plan is important. Proper execution is essential. Relishing in success drives the process.

My brother returned to the University of Illinois as a student (living in a dorm – not a barracks) and graduated in 1968. He proceeded on to a long career as a high school teacher and as a respected track and cross-country coach. I just wonder if it all started with those first steps before the Daily News reporter.