I was in Princeton, New Jersey this last week. Not only is New Jersey the location for our own Corporate Headquarters, but it I also the location for principal research centers for many of the companies we work very closely with.
All of this meant that as well as last week being my first visit to Corporate HQ (other than when I was being interviewed), last week was also the first time that I had chance to attend a Steering Committee for one of our major strategic partnerships.
I also had opportunity to fly – for the first time – between New Haven and Philadelphia on an airplane with only propellers – who would have thought it would be so difficult to get the thought of Memphis Belle out of my mind once it was fixed!
All in all, last week was the first time I had done some things that I had never done before.
I very much like the concept of continually looking to do things that I have never done before. I gave a presentation a couple of weeks ago and I used this quote as a way of encouraging my audience to step up and take some chances…make some things happen…add some value in different ways…and to learn about themselves at the same time.
Doing something we have never done before – like a lot of opportunities we see – can often be much harder to do that it is to say. But if anything, this particular ‘do vs. say’ measure is a metric I always seek out, always get excited by and always score myself against.
Doing something I have never done before is almost always enjoyable – I say ‘almost’ rather than ‘always’ since I still can’t get that ‘Memphis Belle’ moment out of my mind. But doing something I have never done before always open up new opportunities. If we only ever do or try things we have done before we will inevitably always achieve the same or – at best – predictable results. Doing something different presents opportunity space for new possibilities and outcomes.
My first visit to a Partnership Steering Committee was a new experience for me. I didn’t know what to expect, or what was expected of me. I met new colleagues and heard new information. I had to work hard, listen intently and observe accurately. I had to assess and to contribute. I wanted to influence. I expected to add value. I needed to deliver. My second visit to a Steering Committee will be different. It will be better because I will be better. I have learned. I now have new information, perception and thoughts. I have different ideas.
But I will only have that second time because I have done it first…the only way to get better at anything is to start doing it.
I am careful – whenever I do anything I have never done before – to manage my own expectations. My metric is only ever that I have done it…whatever it is or was. Stretching myself – moving myself out of my comfort zone – is all that counts. I know that if I set too high a set of standards then I can either feel like I have failed, or – worse still – discourage myself from future experiments.
Putting myself in new situations – big or small…situations that I don’t normally find myself in, is a superb way to test my assumptions about myself; it is an amazing way to teach myself (and to be taught) new things; but it is the ultimate way to learn to know myself better.