Fit to Lead: Be Bad at Things

Fit to Lead is a weekly series sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from getting fit.

As I explain in my book, Operation Melt: How I Used Life-Changing Project Management to Lose Over 100 Pounds in Under a Year, I have recently gone through a significant personal transformation. I attribute much of my success to my decision to leverage my years of project management and continuous improvement to accomplish my goal.

Throughout my transformation I learned that there are many important parallels between getting fit and becoming a good leader. There are also lessons that I have learned about fitness from being a good leader. In short there are significant synergies between fitness and leadership.

Fit to Lead is part of my quest to build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

Be Bad at Things

As I mentioned in last week’s post I was on an annual family vacation last week enjoying some rest and relaxation. While on vacation I played golf with my brother-in-law which had become an annual tradition. I am not good at golf at all but mostly because I only play once or twice a year though he plays way more frequently and is great at it.

During our golf game we started taking about whether or not his twelve year old daughter is ready to start playing golf yet. We know that she soon will be and it is only a matter of time. But he said that she probably isn’t ready yet because of one trait that would make it no fun for her.

Like many kids her age she gets very frustrated with any activity where she isn’t instantly good. Then she wants to give it up and move on to other things. He is working on teaching her the important lesson that you can’t be good at everything in the beginning. He will do great at teaching this lesson and she will soon beat us all at golf!

This got me thinking back to when I first started my fitness journey. I didn’t know how to do much beyond just walking and tracking foods; and I wasn’t great at that! I was underestimating my portion sizes and mis-logged my food often. I also underestimated the importance of rest, form and proper equipment and gave myself several injuries but I learned and got better.

Eventually I went on to achieve my goal, and then some, and ran a half marathon just 16 months after starting my journey at 325 pounds. I was successful because I stuck with it, I learned and I got better despite not being a natural. I read a lot, I talked to more experienced people and I practiced. Plus I hired a trainer to help me be safe when I started lifting weights so I had some expert guidance to keep me from a serious injury.

What does this have to do with leadership? It relates to one important, and maybe tough to hear, fact. Great leaders aren’t born as great leaders. Leadership is a learned skill and it takes lots of practice to be good at it.

It is important to be bad at leadership because it is when you are bad that you grow the most. Being bad at something means that you are pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone. Comfort is the opposite of growth!

Just think about how bodybuilders grow big muscles. They constantly lift just a little more weight than their previous maximum. It is uncomfortable, and sometimes literally painful, but it is how muscles develop. Your leadership muscles work the same way.

Give yourself permission to be bad at things as long as you are committed to getting better. Then do the work! Read, talk to experts but, most importantly, try and push yourself outside your comfort zone. Before you know it your leadership muscles will grow huge!

Thanks so much for reading this week’s Fit to Lead article. By working to improve our leadership together we can help build a world where no goal ever dies of loneliness.

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