I flew through the air! And how it relates to career change…
There is some part of me that loves a challenge, an adventure. Last weekend I had an ultimate test of my courage as I went for a ride on the flying trapeze at the Gorilla Circus. The idea came to me from Sonia Duggan, a coach who is guiding me and 5 other women through The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron’s book about rediscovering your innate creativity. I’ve loved the course so much, and toward the end of one of the weekly classes, Sonia mentioned the Gorilla Circus and their trapeze classes. I was instantly intrigued, and after pondering it for a few days, I finally booked to go last Saturday. I’m so glad I did!
There were so many things that made the experience incredible. The biggest part has to be the brilliant team of instructors – it wasn’t just what they did, but also how they did it. The 2-hour experience was a fantastic model for wonderful experiential learning, and if you have any interest in the processes of learning, teaching, and seeing a great model for these two things in action, Gorilla Circus does it amazingly well.
Here are the main lessons I took away from the Gorilla Circus and how they link to the work I do with people on career change:
- The necessity of trust: The teaching team embodied trust – they are professional trapeze teachers, after all. More crucially though, they instilled trust in me. They gave me belief in myself. There was never any chance for “I can’t do this” to come into the conversation. They briefly went over some rules for the day, a big one being listen to them! Another rule was, if you can’t seem to do something, essentially just keep trying and keep listening. It reminded me of Carol Dweck’s mindset work and the idea that when we start to learn something, we can’t do it…yet. Eventually, with practice, we will get it! The Gorilla Circus instructors’ energy, belief in us as students, and dedication to helping us all improve were infectious and powerful. If you’re considering or in the middle of a career change, you may have moments where you think, “I can’t do this.” Trust that you can, and keep going.
- The power of community in learning: There were 10 of us in the class, and I was the only first-timer. There were six kids under the age of 14, and they were so inspirational. Despite feeling a little like Adam Sandler in “Back to School”, being with the kids made the whole thing way cooler. They would just go do their tricks with no fear, only excitement. To them it was just fun. Everyone in the class offered each other encouragement, enthusiasm, and support, and the feeling of seeing someone else land their trick was a thrill – we all rooted for each other to succeed. Being with other people who challenged and pushed themselves meant I wanted to keep going to get better. The traditional approach to a career change (you and your computer, day in and day out*) can be incredibly isolating, so find supporters who will champion you, and from whom you can get encouragement.
*career change is really more fun and effective if you stop trying to squeeze yourself into job ads, step away from your computer, and go out and speak to people. People hire people, so go meet some people you’re interested to connect with and have a conversation. Whole worlds will open up!
- The importance of feedback: This aspect is probably what made the whole thing amazing. So often as adults, and in particular in corporate or organisational life, the whole idea of “feedback” strikes fear in us. We take it so personally, we disagree with it, we don’t see it for the gift that it really is. At the Gorilla Circus, feedback is so critical. There was a point when I couldn’t understand what I needed to do to get myself back down to the net from the trapeze. The goal was to do a back flip off the trapeze to achieve this. For some reason, I wasn’t getting it – probably I couldn’t believe I could do it, or I didn’t have the right technique to set up the possibility, or fear was getting in the way of my letting go of the bar. I got myself stuck in a somersault underneath the bar, and from his position on the ground, one of the instructors James had me start again. He told me exactly what I needed to do differently the next time, to do the move correctly. He said it clearly and positively, and in the next 10 seconds, I managed to do the back flip dismount.
So often we shy away from giving or receiving feedback, but in this case, it was crucial. I’d still be hanging on to the trapeze or with my rear end to the sky if James hadn’t been able to point out what I needed to do differently to succeed, or if I hadn’t been open to receiving his pointers. When you’re learning something and don’t yet have the skills you need to be successful (or helping someone else to learn something), always remember that feedback is necessary to make progress and move forward. Get in touch with trusted friends, colleagues, or people who know you well and can comment on your strengths, talents, and blind spots. This feedback can help you understand more about yourself so that you can put your best self forward in your career change journey.
- Why commitment and courage – not confidence – are crucial: I work with a lot of my clients on confidence. Many of us want more confidence to do certain things in our lives. I often refer to the Dan Sullivan video on how we need to see confidence as a result of, rather than a pre-requisite to, having built a capability. In order to build the capability, what we actually need is more commitment and courage to do that. The scariest moment of the Gorilla Circus was when I was standing on the platform, high above the net, about to step up, dangle my toes over the platform, and take hold of the bar. On my 3rd “flight”, I asked James what I needed to do to improve. He said I was doing well, and that I could do with adding a bit of confidence in. I was doing the right things, but there was still hesitation. I realized that yes, if I acted with more commitment and courage – a bit more nerve! – then things might flow more smoothly. It reminded me of the quote by William Hutchinson Murray:
“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.”
When I watch the two videos of my trapeze flights, I can see that I have so much more commitment in the second video. It means I could move more quickly into the right position to be ready for the catch. And I got incredibly lucky that the amazing Rachel and I had our timing in sync for her to make the catch! If you’re exploring a completely different career, it can be easy to lose steam and think that it’s easier to go back to what you know, the job that you hate but is familiar and known. Having the commitment and courage is essential to building confidence in developing a new path for yourself.
- There is no time like the present to do something you want to do: On my bus ride home, I was on a proper high. I kept watching the videos and marveling that that was ME – a slightly unfit, 41-year-old – flying through the air. It was surreal and it continues to bring a smile to my face. I had been terrified, but I’d done it anyway. The boys were curious about why on earth I would want to go to a flying trapeze lesson, and I explained that it seemed exciting and that I wanted to give it a try. It really didn’t matter that I was about 30 years older than most of the others there, or that I will likely never join the crowd of elite professional trapeze artists. It was just about seizing the energy of an idea and acting on it. If there’s something you’d like to do, but you tell yourself that you’re “too [fill in the blank: old, young, shy, proud, talented, not talented, fit, unfit, etc, etc]”, recognize that that is the voice of your inner critic, trying to keep you safe. It reminds me of the Chinese proverb: “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
So if you’re curious about pushing yourself into motion and getting out of your comfort zone, do check out the Gorilla Circus for a high-flying adventure. And if you’re ready to find and do work you love, please get in touch. I’d love to support you to find work that lights you up.
These 3 made it awesome!
Gorilla Circus: www.gorillacircus.com
My 2nd attempt on the trapeze (feedback in action): https://youtu.be/SKqaqrFXe_s
Landing my trick (yeah!): https://youtu.be/Q2LdERJmfUQ
Sonia Duggan, Inspiration Coach: https://inspirationcoaching.biz
Dan Sullivan’s confidence video that I adore: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wBlJ5HbFpYQ
Carol Dweck, The Power of Yet: https://www.ted.com/talks/carol_dweck_the_power_of_believing_that_you_can_improve