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Worst in Class

| November 15, 2022

by Eva Dale

[Today’s Tuesday Reading is from Eva Dale, Web Services Director for the College of Arts and Sciences at The Ohio State University.  She is a BTAA MOR alum.  Eva may be reached at [email protected] or via LinkedIn.]

Last November I started wall climbing. For those of you not familiar with this (crazy) activity it is a sport where you are tethered to a rope and climbing up the side of a 25-45 foot wall, spidermaning your way up from hold to hold. Because this was a new skill requiring muscles and agility I did not currently possess, I was bad at it. I was also surrounded by people who were far better at navigating the routes up the wall than me. Simply put, I was the worst in the class. This was the perfect place for me.

Wisdom gained from being the worst
My learning started with humility and letting go of my ego as I awkwardly clambered my way up the wall. The many bruises on my knees are a testament to my total lack of grace. One of the best ways to gain climbing skills is by observing others to see how they solve the problem of getting up the wall. This was a good situation for me to be quiet, observe others, and learn from them. I also needed to have patience since there isn’t a fast path to becoming a skilled climber. There were days where everything came easily for me and I felt my ability to get up the wall growing and then there were ‘high gravity’ days where I couldn’t seem to get up a certain route that had not caused problems before. Those difficult days were the ones where showing up was my win.

I brought that wisdom to work
So much of what I learned in the climbing gym I was able to bring with me to work. Aside from the boost of energy from trying something new, it gave me a fresh perspective for finding solutions. The confidence I gained by taking risks in my climbs I applied to projects, presentations, and problems I was working on. Working on the habit of listening and learning from others stayed with me when I sat in meetings with co-workers. Putting myself in challenging situations in the gym helped me grow my muscle for persistence, grit and resilience. Having this escape from work also gave space from the problems I was dealing with in my job. In the same way that rest days in workout plans are important, rest days from work are also valuable.

Pick something new to learn
Go find something you are bad at and start learning. Maybe pick something you’ve had your eye on for many years but you keep talking yourself out of it. Do you think it’s too late to start learning this skill? Will you feel silly being the worst in the room? Do you not like feeling bad at something? Remember that these situations are good for us. This is what keeps us young at heart and curious. This is where we meet people outside our bubble. This grows our village, diversifies our network and gives the chance for fresh, new ideas to sneak in.

There are so many ways to step into something new:

  • take a dance class
  • learn a language
  • try a sport you’ve never done
  • take a painting and drawing class
  • go birding
  • learn an instrument
  • take a cooking class
  • travel to a country you’ve never been to
  • learn to fly a plane

Bring what you learn to work
What you learn from this experience you can bring into your leadership role. It can bring empathy for someone who is working on something and it’s not easy for them. It can help you look at a project with fresh eyes as if you are seeing it for the first time. You may take more time observing and listening to learn from others in the room. Ideally, do something that is very different from what you do at work. Get out of your comfort zone and be the worst in the class. I would love to hear what you learn.


This Week’s Survey

When was the last time you stepped into something new?

From Last Week

Last week we asked which do you feel is most impactful in leading from where you are?

  • 50% said strengthening a practice to stay open, listen more in order to better cross divides and work together for a better tomorrow.
  • 36% said engaging further into something you are passionate about.
  • 14% said casting your Election Day vote when you are able.

While it is very important to vote, we collectively recognize that leading from where we are is a year-round commitment and that it is critical to stay open and work with others (especially when their viewpoints may are different from our own) as well as engaging in our passions.  Relating to today’s reading, what better way to be open than to explore something new, including gaining perspective from someone new.  The humility and wisdom this can help us gain are beneficial across many dimensions of life.