As an elementary school-aged kid, I learned how to ride a bike. My father held the back of the seat and ran as I pedaled. He let go, and seconds later I fell, blood dripping from my knee. “Get back on” my father encouraged. I did, and eventually graduated from the sea green bike to a pink Huffy with a rectangular seat, on which I did jumps from small ramps with my brothers.
Personal power was in the trepidation of relying on myself, experiencing the fall and scratch as inevitable markers of learning and growth. Although I didn’t think about it in this way at the time, I must have known it.
I often practiced cartwheels on the lawn of my grandmother’s apartment complex. For weeks, I couldn’t grasp the full stretch of the legs that makes a cartwheel, and then one day, I did it, without counting how many tries it took! I was delighted when the magic transpired in the fleeting moments between one unrefined movement and the very next one, beautifully executed.
Personal power was in NOT knowing “for sure” that I WOULD do it, believing I COULD, and going unconditionally until I encountered completion.
During a class visit to the New Age Spa in Neversink, New York as a college student, I spent most of the day on an outdoor apparatus designed for team building and personal development. One of the activities required us to climb a 30-foot log, stand atop it’s 12 inch diameter, and leap to catch a bar in midair.
Poised on the height of this tiny surface, my classmates gazing up at me, I shook my head in a repeated motion of “no.” Having glided through the other parts of the apparatus, including a tightrope and zip-line, I was terrified of leaping. Securely strapped to a safety line that rested in my instructor’s hands, I was unprepared to cross the empty space between the log and the bar.
I jumped, missed, and climbed up for a second try. My instructor guided me from below. “Yell ‘REACH’ as you lift off of toward the bar!” I caught it!
Acknowledging that this success didn’t eliminate my fear (I would still feel afraid on a third attempt), personal power was about exercising my ability to reach.
I think about a question that appears in most job applications: why did you leave this position? My work departures weren’t prompted by high points, like a professional athlete breaking a world record or winning one more tournament before retiring. Nothing catastrophic or exceptional provoked a finale. Like the final notes of many musical compositions, the relevance of those commitments subtly faded.
Personal power was in tuning into the beginning of the end and gradually shifting course.
While these examples of personal power are as common as a cold, aren’t they applicable to the more complex solutions that you’ve been working so hard and long to bare?
Fall, get hurt, keep trying, augment, modify, and reach until you find completion.
Completion may be as tangible as publishing a book, or finishing a degree program. It can also come by way of sensing that you’ve maxed an experience, and it’s time to turn the page.