Old Dog and New Tricks

848401f3a7d5328e7676797dd0bda3cfDo it again. Do it again. Do it again…

For the past few weeks, that’s what the voice in my head has been saying. Sometimes it comes as gentle encouragement, “hey, that time was pretty good, but let’s do it one more time to get it just right” and other times, I hear “Seriously? You still can’t get it?  Come on, let’s go through it again.” Yes, this old dog has been busy trying to learn a new trick and, in the end, look like she’s been doing it forever.

Deep down, it is unrealistic. No one can put on a pair of skis for the first time and hit the slopes like Bode Miller. That’s nuts! To believe I can test drive a new skill with the finesse of a master is a silly expectation I’ve hung on myself. But come hell or high water, I am going practice, practice, practice until I get it!

I have to admit, it has been a while since I had to get serious about learning something new that really mattered. Enter a new role and new responsibilities, and I am a student once again. In the process of challenging myself to learn a new tool well enough to demo it like a pro, I’ve been humbled, enlightened and positively challenged.

The lessons that have emerged are ones I believe are worth sharing…

You Are Your Own Worse Critic. The self-imposed pressure I am putting on myself to be a master is silly. No one honestly expects me to have the same skills and finesse of others who have finely honed theirs over years of experience. Be kind to yourself and speak encouragement to yourself, for the knowledge will come.

Ask Questions. I have asked more questions, despite how silly some of them sound to me, in the last few weeks than I feel like I have ever asked in my life. I remind myself that the only stupid question is the one I am afraid to ask, so I am learning to check my ego at the door and let others share their experience and insight. In the long run, I am getting to the goal more quickly and really developing a strong sense of insight on the ways in which I can leverage and deploy the capabilities of my team in new ways.

Be Open to New Approaches. I am a skilled presenter and love to get up in front of the room and dazzle the audience. I’ve been fortunate to use this skill often and love the energy and rhythm I can bring to a meeting. My style is uniquely mine. As I interject myself into new situations, I must be open to the ways of others and give reason for them to be accepting of my ways; owning that the latter comes as others see the entirety of what I contribute. Earning the trust of others happens best when I accept their approach while I am adapting my own. The right for change comes with time and experience.

Be Hungry to Learn. As frustrating as it feels at times, I am loving the challenge learning brings. I like to push myself to try new skills and open myself up to the knowledge that awaits. I have to make it fun for myself and reward myself in simple ways as I progress along the curve. Having that inner hunger to try new things and grow is critical and must be fed.

Practice. Practice. Practice. Nothing can replace the experience that practice brings. Hour after hour, I have worked to hone and tighten my skills. I have recorded myself and others, made pages of copious notes and pushed myself toward improvement. In the end, these efforts will pay off handsomely. There is no substitute for focused practice.  None.

This old dog has lots of life left! It is exhilarating — and humbling — to know I have to start at square one and learn new skills. I am grateful for the willing instruction of others and am leaning in to absorb all I can quickly. I am giving myself permission to start at the level of being “good” and not “great,” for the latter will come with time.

In this season, I am learning in more ways than I can count. And I love it!


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