Go ahead! Make a fool of yourselves

 In Leadership


On one of my evening walks, I deviated from my usual route and chanced upon a roller skating rink in the neighbourhood. The rink was bustling with activity, as young teenagers were practising various routines and perfecting their art. Having never really attempted skating before, I decided to sit myself on a bench nearby and watch what the skaters were upto.

There were probably about 20 or so youngsters in the rink, each trying to overtake the other, travelling at break neck speed, but with excellent control and poise. It was a delight to watch the rhythmic symphony in action. Some of the experienced skaters were challenging each other by showing off their complicated routines. As I sat mesmerised by the skaters elegantly swooshing by, a bunch of younger kids, probably between 4 and 6 years old accompanied by an adult, arrived at the rink. It looked like a new batch had arrived for their coaching session to begin. Each kid went through a laborious process of being outfitted with the skating paraphernalia, the knee guards, the arm guards, the head guards, the roller skates etc., and then stepped gingerly on the rink one by one. To my surprise, the skates on all these little kids had been locked and all they were asked to do was walk slowly around the rink. After every few steps one of them was bound to fall down and the coach would shout, “Get up and start walking!”. With a loud grunt and a long face, the kid would struggle, get up and continue the ungainly walk around the rink. Compared to the sophisticated and graceful show that the senior skaters had put on just a few minutes earlier, these kids looked downright funny and ridiculous. I could not imaging anyone wanting to put themselves through this process.

But something that looked so uncoordinated and graceless had, with time, the ability to morph into a beautiful graceful dance!

This brought back an old memory. While in graduate school in the US, some of my friends were going on a ski trip and I had decided to tag along for fun. Having grown up in a tropical country, the only ski experience I had had was watching someone ski on TV during winter olympics. Since my friends had been skiing a few times before, they were eager to get to the top of the mountain. Despite being advised to stay and practise on the training slope, I decided to go along with them not wanting to be left behind. I probably skied for a whole 2 minutes after I embarked from the ski lift before I fell down. Now one of the first things you probably ought to learn when skiing is how to get back up if you fall down. This was the part that I had unfortunately skipped in my eagerness. And so after what seemed like eternity of trying to get back on my feet, I had no other option, but to take my skis off my foot, put them on my shoulder and begin the arduous task of walking downhill. I must have looked like a complete fool.

I wish I could tell you that, like the awkward skating kids who kept falling every other step, who then went onto become superstars, that I too became a celebrated and accomplished skier after this initial debacle. While that was not the case, I did muster up enough courage to get back up on the slopes a few more times. After all, how much worse could it get after my first experience. And I am happy to say that each time, I came down with the skis still attached to my foot.

So go ahead, make a fool of yourselves. You never know what you will end up learning.

As a wise man once said, learning only begins at the edge of discomfort.

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