Rookie Smarts: “Is it possible we are at our very best, when we know the very least? When we are rookies?” Liz Wiseman posed this question in her keynote address this morning. Her entire talk lit me up.
I have some personal experience being a rookie of late, after a big career shift from higher education to starting Evalogue.Life and telling people’s stories. After so many years of hard work, my day job finally got more comfortable, so I felt guilty giving it up for the thrill of building something that ignites my spirit in new ways. I felt self-conscious, as though craving a fresh challenge somehow makes me flaky or ungrateful. My job had been a blessing and a joy, so what was wrong with me? Am I one of those people who is never satisfied?
Wiseman answered that nagging thought by explaining that folks might assume that arriving at a place of mastery would leave humans happier, but she cautioned that the opposite is true, and she shared research to back up the point. The take-away from an official looking line graph was this, “As our challenge level goes up, our personal satisfaction also goes up.” May I offer my own experience as “Exhibit A?” Since entering a phase where every task is hard because I’m doing it for the first time, I feel mentally challenged and alive.
“When we linger too long on a plateau a little part of us starts to die,” Wiseman said. Thanks, Liz, for validating my whole life. You just put into words what it felt like my inner voice was trying to whisper: Don’t get too comfortable, Rhonda. About comfort, she quoted the poet Khalil Gibran, “The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master.”
Being a rookie is powerful because it puts us in the opposite state of comfort. “The rookie position is off balance,” she says. This position feels awkward and we don’t like it. So we act, and she equates our footsteps to being “In fire-walker mode. Firewalkers are cautious, but they walk very fast. “You have never heard of a fire stander.”
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