Crawl — Walk — Run

Abhishek Lahoti
3 min readMar 1, 2024

Last week we hit a major milestone in the Lahoti household. My daughter decided it was the right time for her to walk without assistance and stumbled for 4 steps before crashing into my wife’s arms with a massive giggle. It was a big moment for her (and us), and I have sheepishly spent the last few days rewatching the moment with a mix of immense pride and subtle terror. I guess we should properly baby proofing the house.

But, as is classic behaviour on my end, I figured a bit of procrastination in the form of writing would be better. I was pondering how hard it seemed for my daughter to “take the leap” of walking without support. We’d tried all sorts of tricks to get her to take her first steps but she repeatedly refused. She had tried it a few times, and tumbled, then given up and crawled hurriedly to her goal. Thinking on the experience, I was reminded of the phrase I learned when I began my career: “crawl — walk — run”. I chuckled at how Fortune 500 CEOs are describing processes the same way I describe a 16 month old.

But, as I pondered more, I realised we are all using the phrase “crawl — walk — run” incorrectly. In the workplace, when we say it, we usually mean to take things slow. We assign it to a new endeavour with an attitude that we should find small wins at first, which can build to larger success. The opposite being that if we go too fast we’ll fail. Essentially, find a slow, easy approach and grow without too much turmoil.

But, as someone who has recently see the “crawl — walk” part of the phrase, it’s not how it goes. The idea of learning to walk entails A LOT of falling/failing. Not every attempt to stand will work. Trying to go slow and bank a lot of quick wins without much failure means you’ll never really learn. Only with trial AND error can the new, necessary skill be learned. And even then, when you start to walk, it’s in slow bursts with continuous falls, until one day it feels like a natural motion.

I think adulthood makes failure terrifying. We remind people to “crawl — walk — run” in order to prevent losing time to failures. The idea is that you should take it easy you won’t be discouraged by failures. And eventually you’ll just naturally get better at whatever it is you’re doing. In reality, every project/job we undertake has “microfailures” built into the fabric. Without them, we may never learn the nuances needed to avoid the mega-failures later on.

Kids are unique in that they fail fast and often. The axiom lends itself well to their experience given the vast amount of data they’re receiving. But, in the world we live now, everyone is surrounded by the opportunity to “constantly fail”. Comfort zones, whilst necessary, are suddenly a crutch. Much like my daughter holding my hand before she was ready to walk, the success of her first steps were only possible bc she chose to let go.

With each attempt at walking (and with each tumble), I see my daughter gaining more confidence. Her balance, strength and boldness all increasing with each success AND failure. Even one week since her first steps have led to a marked change in her excitement and curiosity about this new skill. I hope I can remember this the next time I’m faced with my “first steps”. But for now, it’s time to get to bubble-wrapping the house and chasing after our new daredevil.

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Abhishek Lahoti

Head of Platform @ Highland Europe, advisor of startups, new father, and perpetual confused person trying to make sense of life