They looked at me with disbelief. ‘Who is this guy, how did he get here?’ It was the first day on the course and I was out of my depth. I couldn’t understand the jargon, the acronyms. I was the only one who hadn’t studied this field before. And so I was faced with a stark choice. Sink or swim. No contest. Swim was easily the more attractive option. After all, this felt like a God-given moment, a lifetime opportunity, and I was determined to grasp it with both hands.
It felt awkward at first, interrupting each time I didn’t understand a word, a phrase, a concept. I could feel the frustration of others around me, wanting to press on. My concern about offending them risked closing me down. So I had to steel myself within. I really want to learn. In fact, learning was more important to me than worrying about how some others may think or feel. So, if I didn’t understand something, I would persevere with asking until I did.
This felt like an important lesson in personal leadership. About overcoming voices of doubt within me, being proactive and creating my own experience. It was about stepping out with determination, not regressing to passivity. I’m glad that I did. The course was an amazing experience, deeply formative in my personal and professional life. Others commented afterwards how they began to value my questions and feel inspired by my passion to learn.
So I learnt some important lessons through this experience. It also left me with a number of valuable questions, questions I use to challenge myself when faced with fresh situations where I feel anxious, bored, frustrated or constrained. What is my own contribution to what I’m experiencing? What is the opportunity in this? How am I limiting myself? How can I exert greater influence? How can I persevere in adversity? What can I negotiate to achieve a better result?
Nick is a coach, trainer and OD consultant.