On Not Being Good at It

Compliance officers are used to being good at things. After all, our careers require a certain level of academic mastery and we must have emotional intelligence and business acumen to deal with senior management.

At the highest levels, we report to the board of directors, and sometimes even prosecutors or regulators. Most of us have a college degree. Many of us have law school or master’s degrees, or are CPAs. We were good students. We know how to read laws. In short, we’re good at things.

But being good at things is a blessing and a curse. The ability to be good at academics and our careers can make it feel unsafe to do things we’re objectively not good at. At worst, it can make us not want to try new things at all. It’s limiting, but comfortable, to stay in our lane where we know what we’re doing.

Learning to Walk by Falling

 

Babies learn to walk by repeatedly falling over. They get up and keep trying until they’ve mastered it. People cheer them on rather than tell them to give up if they fall.

But when we, as adults, try to learn new things, it can be easier to give up than to stretch. People in our lives may question why we’re trying or even actively tell us to stop. It seems with age that we’ve forgotten that we can still learn new things.

Hanging from the Ceiling

 

Some of you saw the recent video I posted about learning how to use aerial silks. Here’s the story. At the end of last year, I was feeling really burned out. My New Year’s resolution was to have more fun. I thought back to a party I’d attended years ago where an acquaintance told me she was learning “to fly” on the aerial silks. I thought it sounded amazing, then put it in the back of my head.

Six months ago, I decided to try it. I went to the “adult class” at the local circus school (real thing!). I signed the general waiver, which, in this case, included fire eating and trapezing.

As I waited for my class to start, I watched with radical intimidation as the 12-year-olds spun down on lengths of fabric from 20 feet in the air.

I almost walked out, but willed myself to stay. As soon as class started, I realized I couldn’t do anything. Not the climb, not the hanging, and definitely not pulling my body up over my head into an inverted handstand position. As the class went on, I sweated, I fell, and I felt invigorated. The next day I felt as if I’d been hit by a bus and run over repeatedly for good measure. Would I go back?

Choosing Discomfort

 

The following week. I chose to return. I was sent off in a corner by myself away from the people who knew what they were doing. But eventually, I learned to climb. I got into my first inversion. I did the splits in the air. I hung upside down. Slowly, slowly, slowly – one step forward, two steps back.

I realized as I kept going – and now keep going now twice a week – that it’s hard not to be good at this. I’m used to finish lines. I’m happy with getting degrees, promotions, and accolades – they are my barometers for success.

But I’m not good at this. Not yet. And frankly, starting in my 40s, I’m not likely to ever be very good at it. There is no finish line in aerials. That makes my Type A self uncomfortable.

Choosing the Experience

 

On good days, I remember that this isn’t about being good. It’s about choosing fun. It’s about choosing to try the next trick, even though I’m likely to mess it up the first few times. It’s about repeating (and repeating, and repeating, and refining, and repeating ad nauseum) the same movements over and over until they are easier to do.

I’m not going to lie. Many times, I catch myself feeling defeated when I end up tangled in the silks after failing to complete a move correctly. I get frustrated when the coaches look at me with those “she’s not getting it!” looks. I sometimes come home feeling like I’m not getting better. But I am. It’s just slow. And I don’t do slow in anything in my life. Except this.

Learning to Fly

 

I’ve now learned that aerialists call their art “flying.” I am, in fact, learning to fly. The metaphor isn’t lost on me. It’s applicable to all areas of my life.

Worth It

 

Growth is a matter of perspective. Choosing discomfort is hard, but getting into an expanded comfort zone is worth the risk and challenge.

My advice? Find something that makes you nervous. It can be an athletic endeavor, a new class, a public speaking presentation, or anything else that makes you squirm that could also expand your experiences and courage.

Bravery comes from practicing bravery. Don’t believe me? Try hanging from the ceiling. That changes perspective in a hurry – literally. Sometimes, seeing the world upside down is a gift. Seeing myself in a new light is even better than that.

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Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart

Kristy Grant-Hart is the founder and CEO of Spark Compliance.
She's a renowned expert at transforming compliance departments into in-demand business assets.

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