It all started with a dare. Or more accurately, a challenge.
And I love a challenge.
A few weeks ago I was with our 12-year-old daughter and the families of her traveling softball team for a weekend tournament. After it wrapped up, the girls wanted to swim, hang out at the hotel's arcade, and do a little movie watching in each others' rooms. This was fine with the parents, who knew that the kids were safely contained within the hotel for the evening.
It also meant the parents could have a little fun.
"Hey Amy, you're up!"
A small group of parents and I found our way to the hotel's western-themed bar. To our surprise, we were met by a mechanical bull.
It didn't take long before one of the Dads suggested we give the mechanical bull a try. A few of the parents begged off, but some of us were intrigued enough to give it a go.
Having never ridden a mechanical bull before, I was a little nervous. What if I made a fool of myself? What if I fell right off?
Then another question crossed my mind: What would I regret more — trying and failing or never trying at all?
The same can be said of most challenges in life, but particularly those in business. This is especially true if, like me, your livelihood depends on putting yourself out there to win and retain business and clients.
My bull riding experience reminded me of some important business lessons:
Try Something New That Scares You.
In order to grow — as a businessperson and as a human being — you must step out of your comfort zone. Getting on a mechanical bull is one way to do that, but so is agreeing to be a first-time panelist at an industry conference or taking the lead on a new business pitch.
By challenging yourself, you'll force yourself to stretch your skills, learn new things and adapt to avoid becoming complacent.
Asking for Advice Before a Big Endeavor is a Good Idea, Especially if You Show Some Humility.
Before getting on that bull, I humbly confessed to the operator that it was my first time and asked him for some strategies. He happily obliged.
I'm not sure things would have gone as well had I come out cocky, and with guns blazing, thinking I could master something I had never done before. In fact, I'm fairly certain that attitude would have resulted in much rougher and tougher ride.
Asking for that advice — and my willingness to accept it — played a key role in my success. Even if you're ready to put yourself out there, it would behoove you to check your ego at the door and check in with a trusted colleague to get his/her advice. Maybe they've been there before and could share some insights to help you avoid get thrown off the bull, so to speak.
Someone's Always Watching.
That night in the bar, I had plenty of people watching my bull ride: my fellow parents and riders, other patrons, the wait staff, barkeepers, and bouncers. I'd like to think that my willingness to ride helped inspire others to be brave as well.
In business, we have allies and foes. There will be those that cheer you on and those that try to tear you down. This is an opportunity for you to show the world your best, most fearless self. Just think, you could inspire someone to try something new. Or maybe even land a new client who is impressed with your moxie.
Just Go With It.
When riding the bull, you have to be ready for anything. You are not in control; you're at the mercy of the operator. The best way to deal with this is to stay loose and move with the bull instead of fighting it. Remaining balanced is the only way to make your way through the twists and turns without falling off.
The same holds true in the business world. If we remain rigid and fixed in our positions and viewpoints, we're sure to take a tumble. Being flexible and adaptable allows us to remain balanced and ride out whatever challenges come our way.
Bruises Are To Be Expected.
Even if you're trying to relax, riding a mechanical bull for the first time can cause your body to tense up. The result? A few bruises. You may even cut your chin open and not realize it until one of your friends asks why you're bleeding.
I would argue that "bruises" are normal, and to be expected after engaging in any nerve-wracking test of your skills. It might be a misstep during a presentation, or maybe an error in a financial projection.
Battle scars are a reminder of the risk, the reward, and the effort you took to meet a challenge. Fortunately, those bumps and bruises will heal.
Don't Forget to Have Fun.
There's just something about overcoming an obstacle or fear. Riding that bull — and staying on it for 56 seconds without falling off — was a rush. You can actually see the joy on my face in the photo above. I was having fun.
It's important to remember that taking on and overcoming a business challenge usually results in that same sense of accomplishment and exhilaration.
Like I said in the beginning, ask yourself what you would regret more: trying something new and failing or never trying at all?