Recently, I had the opportunity to participate in a “high ropes” course. Considering myself relatively healthy, agile and adventurous, I opted for one of the more challenging climbs. As I made my way up…and saw the ground was – in fact – much further away than what it had seemed, I realized that there are some parallels to my ropes adventure and our careers.
It looks easier from the ground than when you’re in it
“No problem”, I thought, gazing at the beams and ropes and the crystal blue sky. As in my professional life, I scrambled up the first 1/3 of the course with ease. It was trickier once I had to make critical course decisions. As in our career, it is the decisions we make at critical junctures that impact our future. One path required significant upper body strength; the other required more mobility and agility. Which led me to realize….
You have to learn to leverage your strengths
Upper body strength is not my forte! I opted for the alternative path, which required both critical thinking, strong legs, and a wiliness to take a leap: much more in my strike zone! As our careers progress, the ability to name and claim our strengths will, in fact, allow us to climb higher. The higher you get, however, the trickier it becomes…which is why it’s important to…
Surround yourself with talented people
Did I know what I was doing up there? Absolutely not! But I trusted that the guy who was holding my belay ropes knew his stuff. I knew that if I did mis-step, he had me covered. We all need these people on our teams. In addition to the belay guy, a friend was watching me form the ground. When I got to a place that I could not see the next step, she guided: “Just up and to your right!” Or “Look for a foothold just about where your left knee is now…!” Invaluable. Having people in your corner who will alert you of a misstep before it happens is critical.
Sadly, I did not reach the peak. I may have overestimated my capabilities, and wonder – had I taken an easier route – if I would have reached the top to ring the bell. I firmly believe YES. Here’s what I learned, though: I went higher and further than I believed possible. I trusted the people around me to catch me if I fell. I climbed, I stretched, I reached. I’m proud of getting as high as I did, and learned valuable lessons for my next ropes adventure. Isn’t that all we can really ask of ourselves, and our teams?