What Trapeze Taught Me About Business + Life
"For a trapeze artist to grab the next bar, she has to let go of the last one." -Gail Blanke
Last week, I took a trapeze class.
It ended up being on a perfect day here in NYC. The sun was out, blue skies, and the class was on the pier overlooking the water with a view of the city.
I signed up and went expecting it to be a fun and different afternoon.
What I didn’t expect were the number of business and life lessons trapeze would teach me about letting go and taking the leap.
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What trapeze taught me about business and life:
1. Cognitively understanding something is different than experience.
Before we took our first jump, the instructors gave us all a quick lesson and explained what we would do when we were up on the platform and in the air.
They walked us through the movements once. We went through them one more time as a group on the mat. Then, it was time to go.
The instructors had figured out something so many of us forget…knowing something isn’t the same as putting it into practice.
We could have spent all day long on the mat rehearsing and talking theory about what it would be like to jump and swing in the air, but none of that would compare to physically doing it.
I learned more in that first jump than I could have in twenty lessons of talking about it and having it explained to me.
Learning things cognitively is important and often where we start, but it’s through action and experience that we truly know something.
Takeaway: all the workshops, webinars, and courses you listen to aren’t the same thing as putting into practice, experiencing, and walking your talk…they also don’t move the needle of your business forward. Taking action on one concept and practicing it through experience is where true learning and growth occurs.
2. Take Action Before You’re Ready.
I was so not ready to fly through the air or even climb the ladder when it was my turn. I wanted to practice on the nice, safe ground at least 25 more times.
We rarely feel ready for whatever leap life or business presents us.
But, I jumped before I felt ready. Turns out I was plenty ready and better than I thought.
Takeaway: our feelings lie to us all the time. Jump and take action before you’re ready. Most of us will never feel ready for the scary stuff and most of the things we want are on the other side of fear (fear’s job is to keep us safe and comfortable after all!).
3. Fear is normal, jump anyway.
When I got to the top of the --- tall ladder and stood on top of the tiny platform, that was on the roof of a building, looming above the city ground, I was shaking.
Then, I did exactly what you’re not supposed to do: I looked down.
And I was freaked out.
The instructor at the top said, “I’d be worried if you weren’t scared. When was the last time you climbed a tall ladder to the top a small platform you’d be jumping off of?”
I kept saying, “I'm not ready”, as I grabbed a hold of the bar (so not life coachy of me).
I found the anticipation as I ascended the ladder was the ‘scariest’ part of the experience. I was also trembling after I finished and was back on the ground safely. Ironically, the part where I felt fine, was the exact part I was scared about.
It was a great reminder of how much nonsense we create in our minds.
“I can’t do this” doesn’t only apply to trapeze. This is a lie many of us tell ourselves on a daily basis.
“I’m not good enough"... "I can’t”...."I'm not ready"...keeps us standing on the edge of the metaphorical ledge paralyzed.
There’s no room for fear in momentum. We’re usually fine once we get going.
Takeaway: starting and taking the leap is the hardest part. Fear will always be present, but it’s always worse in our heads than in reality. Starting stops the fear.
4. Small steps build upon one another.
When I got to the class, I saw the last group leaving and assumed they were the advanced level because they did flips for dismounts.
Turns out it was the same class I was taking. By the end of our session, I was hanging upside down on the trapeze, dismounting with a flip, and swinging to let someone else catch me in the air.
They taught us this one step at a time, building one thing upon the last thing we learned. By the time we left, it felt seamless, and we were ready for whatever was next. Had they started the other way around, we would have all been scared sh*tless and never climbed the ladder.
Business and life are no different. So often we try to start at the finish line. We look to the end of a project and overwhelm ourselves. We see an expert in our field and try to start where they are and get discouraged.
Small steps and actions add up. To those, we can add more small steps and actions that compound over time. Consistently add one small step that builds on another, and in no time at all, you’re doing backflips off a tiny bar suspended in the air.
5. Look forward to where you’re going.
I had one jump where I almost flipped and spun too far and missed catching the bar (of course, that’s the one caught on tape…watch where I almost spin off the bar). After, I asked the instructor what I had done that caused this.
“You weren’t looking where you were going,” He said. “Where the head goes, the body follows.”
Now, he was talking strictly about trapeze, but the same happens in business and in life. We land in the direction we point ourselves and focus. Where our head goes or what we focus on and think about, is where our body goes.
To catch the bar, we have to look forward to where we’re going.
6. Reach out and let someone catch you.
When we learned how to swing and be caught by another person (very fun!), we were taught to have "catch hands", reach out, let the other person catch us first, and then grab on.
We could all use some “catch hands” in our lives. It’s good to reach out once in a while and let someone else catch you.
7. You’re more capable than you think.
My biggest takeaway was that we're all so much more capable than we think and give ourselves credit for. With a little time, effort, and focus we can all do SO much more than we think.
This class was filled with people of all ages and athletic abilities, young to old. Every single person got up there and completed some pretty amazing stuff. Sure, there were varying degrees of natural ability and grace, but everyone did it. Every. single. person.
And, every single person didn’t think they could do it.
You are capable of so much more than you think.
Wishing you your version of success,