By Dianna Gaebler
We ask our clients, “What was valuable for you today?” A recent response from a client was both humbling and satisfying at the same time. She said her most valuable take away was actually putting the knowledge we had developed together into practice. Simple, right? And, really - pretty obvious. Or is it?
Speaking personally, I know I have a gift for complicating things. I can spend more time than I care to admit turning ideas over in my head, ruminating rather than acting. I may learn new things. I have a new tools, I just don’t always think to use them.
Coming from an education background, it was drilled into me that you haven’t really learned new skills until you’ve use them. Book learning, while incredibly valuable, will not bring results until you put it into practice. It’s not until you try it out in practice - actual real experience - that you make this new learning part of you.
So don’t just let your new learning marinate in your head. Try it out. If it’s something that is totally different than what you’re experienced with, try it in a low-stakes setting, where the consequences are less important that the actual “using” of the tool and building experience and mastery. Put your knowledge into practice for really powerful results.
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An example from my professional life: I’ve been given great advice about networking that was only a point of interest until I put it to use. Then it got powerful.
At my first event, I began making small talk with those in my immediate vicinity. Uncomfortable, awkward, unproductive conversations. Then I bumped into Allison.
“First time here?”
“First time really networking. I’m afraid I have a lot to learn.”
“If I may - here’s how I do it. When I come to an event, I pick the person that is the most intimidating to me. I make a beeline for that person determined to meet them and strike up a conversation. Sometimes it’s a short ‘hello, nice to meet you; have a great evening.’ It doesn’t have to be super long - I just need to do it. It takes all the nerves out of me. I get it over with first thing, and can relax. Not only does it help me with the rest of my evening, but I’ve met some amazing people that way that I otherwise never would have met.”
I smiled and nodded - we parted ways onto the next conversion. I attended more events with less than fruitful results. Eventually, I remembered Allison’s technique, a tool I had not tried yet. I decided at the next event I’d do as she suggested and evaluate the results.
There was a tight group of people across the way. They were very engaged with each other. They were most intimidating to me and I knew that was where I needed to start. I approached them, smiled and listened for a moment. One of the group members made eye contact and I took that moment to introduce myself to him and “infiltrate the circle.” I’d done it! And then I learned. The world didn’t stop! I didn’t have much to contribute, but as I met them and chatted a bit, I realized they did not hold the keys to the kingdom any more than I did. I relaxed. My forced smile became more genuine and I was able to move on with a bit of peace and a laugh at myself. What had I found so intimidating? I moved to a smaller group of people talking not too far away. I liked their energy - they were laughing and had an easy open way about them. I found myself included in their conversation and enjoyed an exchange of ideas.
Knowing about how to approach networking - or one approach, one tool, so to speak - was powerful. But it’s not until I took action, actually tried it out, did the real power manifest.
Knowledge is power … action is more so.
Simple but not always easy - definitely worth your while.