Stretch Yourself

Does this week’s topic call to mind that person who stretches their calves or sides at their desk, or as you pass them in the street? While I am a big proponent of all stretching, the kind of stretching I’m talking about is more cerebral.

I’m talking about learning a new skill.

I was in a meeting yesterday with a super star Event Organizer, who told the team that she had taken her first salsa dancing class the night before. She had totally sucked at it, but was totally going back for more.

Earlier today another woman confessed to me that she had always wanted to learn how to graphic-capture. I told her, “It’s not rocket science, you just have to practice. You can find proof of that right on my website.

What these two women have in common is that they both want to learn a new skill. What differentiates them is that the first woman is OK with sucking, knowing she needs to suck before she can succeed. The second woman is more tentative, she’s worried about not having what it takes.

Why wait to stretch yourself? You’ll never have what it takes unless you practice (And suck) first. Find something that you have an interest in, or something that scares you. It doesn’t have to scare you immensely, just a little fear will do. Like maybe standing up in a meeting and speaking out. Take a leap and speak up in your next meeting, or if your fear goes deeper than that, take a public speaking lesson first. You’ll be surprised by what you can achieve, and how many people will thank you for it.

Next time someones doesn’t understand what you are talking about, why not grab a pen, go to the whiteboard and draw a picture or diagram to illustrate it. You don’t have to create art, just some basic shapes, stick men or arrows will do. You’ll solidify understanding, and you could get twice the number of ideas out of your team (According to a Wharton study.)

So what if you can’t draw better than stick figures? You just demonstrated that you are confidentenough to take the ribbing that might follow.

How about learning to ride that moto you secretly covet? I swore I couldn’t ride a Harley till I saw one my size, got on, and fired it up. After I conquered my initial fear (with Julie’s coaching) it made riding my little Suzuki 250 seem, well, more like riding on a sewing machine.

Maybe you want to go vegan, learn aerial acrobatics, be more comfortable driving on highways, or understand the stock market. Perhaps your deal is you need to set limits with your kids. All is tough stuff but you can do it!  Each time you do something that stretches you beyond your comfort zone, you build new neural networks, which keeps your brain active and growing.

Don’t take my word for it, hack yourself. Stretch yourself. Scare yourself a little. You’ll feel so awesomely confident after you’re done. You won’t be perfect at it the first time out, but that’s why they call itpractice. That’s the learn in learning.

And if you are like that admin who wants to learn to draw at the front of the room, come take my Visual Storytelling for Better Brainstorming class at the School of Visual Concepts in Seattle. You’ll love it and I’ll love seeing you there taking that big risk!


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