Breaking Through the Roadblocks
Yesterday’s post was all about unleashing our talents. Great stuff! And it would be a no-brainer, except for the fact that it’s not as easy as just “doing or not doing it”, it often takes getting the roadblocks out of the way first.
My mind keeps wandering back, thinking of my friend Jeff. Jeff is a brilliant engineer. His ability to analyze and problem-solve is so superior that he graduated top-of-his-class and landed an impressive job at a multinational manufacturing company right out of college. But after 15 years in the workforce, he found himself stuck. He wasn’t moving up. He wasn’t getting the assignments he wanted. He wasn’t feeling challenged.
Jeff, although a brilliant engineer, wasn’t a great communicator. He’s shy, reserved, holds back his opinions, and would get really nervous in meetings. His boss never asked him to present, because Jeff just wasn’t very effective. He wasn’t getting the lead on projects because he had difficulty communicating with (and thus leading) a team. Jeff showed up at my session a few years ago, completely freaked out. He felt so much discomfort presenting that he just decided that he couldn’t do it. That “decision” was costing him.
We all make decisions about what we can and cannot do. Often our decisions are based on false information. We let our internal experience – how we feel in the moment – drive what is possible. We feel the butterflies, the nausea, the sweaty palms, and start telling ourselves, “This is baaaaaaaaad!”. Our amygdala in over-drive (or as Seth Godin calls it, our lizard brain), thinks we’re going to die, sending us into fight-or-flight, and in our discomfort we decide we can’t do it.
Unless we decide that enduring the discomfort is worth it.
In the two years that I’ve known Jeff, I’ve watched him soar from 0 to 100 as a communicator and speaker. After he realized that he wouldn’t die speaking in public, or owning his own power in meetings, he committed to do the work. It wasn’t easy. Every time he forced himself to do it, his lizard brain would react, but by learning tools, practicing (he joined Toastmasters), and taking lots and lots of baby-steps it got easier each time.
Jeff’s courage to show up in the face of his own discomfort paid off. He received three promotions in two years and started leading large groups. I received an email from Jeff not long ago, saying that his company was relocating him to lead a new team and that he was off on a new adventure overseas. A lot had changed for Jeff.
What’s so cool about this example is that once Jeff was able to take on what frightened him – his roadblock – he was able to truly leverage his natural talents as an Engineer. Learning how to communicate more effectively, didn’t change him, it helped him reach his dreams in his own arena – the Engineering world. To me, Jeff is a great example of what it means to be brave. He was someone willing to be with the discomfort long enough to learn how to better connect, own his power, and bring his best, most authentic self to the workplace.
We all have things that we do well, that come naturally – and things that are hard for us, things that make us really uncomfortable. Sometimes we allow the discomfort to stop us in our tracks, making it impossible for us to leverage what we do best. Sometimes we just try to hide the fact that we’re uncomfortable. We try to pretend “it’s all cool”. We develop brilliant mechanisms for masking our frailties from the world. But hiding them doesn’t make them go away, it just makes us hard to read.
The thing is, we don’t have to walk away from our dreams because we’ve decided we can’t. We don’t have to hide. We just have to find a way to get through our roadblocks and endure the discomfort long enough to pass through to the other side.
What are your roadblocks? Is it your ability to communicate? Is it a confidence issue? Is it a skill-gap? What is it? Name it. That’s where there’s work to be done. Prepare to be very uncomfortable.
This whole taking-responsibility-thing? It’s not easy! But it’s worth it to unleash and leverage what really makes us soar – our talents.
To me, that’s pretty brave.
©OnStage Leadership, 2013; Kimberly Davis is the Founder/Director of OnStage Leadership, a full-day experiential leadership workshop. If you found this helpful, interesting, thought-provoking, or inspiring please “recommend”, “Like” and share. It is only through your generosity that we can reach those who may find it valuable too.
*All names and specifics have been changed to protect the brave.