What if you could fly, or maybe just consistently jump a little higher in life? Would you follow me if I could show you how to be a little bit better parent or boss or teacher or sales person? One sure way is to find a thing you do that gets in your way; realize that it’s comfortable for you but admit that it gets in your way and resolve to stop it.
Here’s the key: be open about what makes you feel in control, comfortable, or safe. Let me give you two examples and then show you a third. (A) I have students who “hide” in class and when called on they speak in almost tiny voices. They stay safe. It works, because teachers stop calling on small-voiced people. In their softness, they are quite in control. (B) I have students who jump in at the mere hint that there’s going to be a question on the floor. Their strategy gets them noticed, feeling useful, and engaged. Although the style of Person B appears to be the opposite of A, the drive is precisely the same: Each feels comfortable and in control in their style. Ask either to try the opposite and it will be nearly impossible. I’ve tried with them! For example, it may take five or six painful retries before I can get person A to speak just 10% louder.
I said I’d show you an example. Over the weekend we went to our friend Sam Keen’s farm and Jack and Jennifer and I took turns “on the flying trapeze.” Sam began flying at 61 years old, and at 80 he not only swings, but hangs upside down, as “the catcher” whose hands reach down and stretch to grab a flier. Each hand above hand, climbing that skinny circus ladder to the 30-foot platform took us further and further from our comfort zones. Jack “flew” pretty well. Back and forth…and got his legs over his body to hang upside down. Jennifer in classic extrovert form howled the fear right out of her body and swung back and forth. Confident and in my comfort zone – alpha male – I held the bar and at the “hep” call I let go. Here’s me in flight:
“The predictable male mistake,” the trapeze coach explained, “You kept your elbows bent in classic bicep-bursting pose” he demonstrated. “So when you hit the end of the arc, your elbows snapped open and your hands didn’t have a chance.” As you saw, one second I was in control (or so I thought). The next I was 155 pounds of mass hurtling out of control into the net below. My natural “success strategy” or “comfort zone” felt natural and right but ill-fitted the job before me.
Some of us are comfortable as we over-steer our kids, our staff, our assistants. Others of us stay comfortable avoiding conflict at all costs. You have seen my success strategy (maybe you’ve read it in RFL): jump in, trust myself, figure I know what I’m doing. I’d love to hear your comments on the success strategy or comfort zone that you stay within or employ, which may most get in the way of your leading with your best self. And comment on what you have tried to break out of that comfort area to
Lead with your best self.