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As a family we all enjoy having fun on an indoor climbing wall. (We’ve not yet progressed to the scary world of outdoor climbing, but that’s another story) On a recent holiday to Bluestone, we’d planned a session on the climbing wall.
To help us warm up and assess our individual skill level, our climbing instructor got us to do was ‘boulder’ along the wall. Bouldering is where you, typically unsupported, climb along the bottom of a climbing wall. Whilst it wasn’t always easy and there were a few feet put on the floor, we all found it well within our comfort zones, apart from my sister-in-law Anna.
After our bouldering session, we were let loose on the wall. The wall had 6 individual self-belaying lines. My son and I took the chance to do an easy first climb and relatively quickly made it to the top of our respective walls. This was in direct contrast to Anna. She got about 12 feet off the ground and that was that. “That’s high enough for now”, according to Anna. It was clear at this point that she was the weakest climber. The voices in her head were scuppering her ability to go further than 12 feet off the ground. As the session went on, I could hear Anna saying such things as, “I’m not built for climbing” “I’ve not done this before” and “I’m not good with heights”.
Fair play to Anna, by the end of the session she had conquered her demons and had demonstrated that she could do a grade 4 climb (that’s good) and was the most improved climber in the whole group.
Give me a flat wall with no overhangs and I’m normally happy to give it a go. Unfortunately when it comes to overhangs my lack of upper body strength hampers my ability. Or that’s what I tell myself! The climbing wall we were on had two lines which involved an over-hang. Twice I pushed myself to make it. Twice I got so far and the lactic acid and the voices in my head persuaded me that I wasn’t going to do it. Is it any wonder that I failed to conquer my overhang issue? Was it my lack of strength stopping me making it over the overhang, (so to speak!) or was it the voices in my head? It was the voices in my head…
Any career progression, particularly if you want to make partner, is going to take you out of your comfort zone. You are going to need to learn new skills and ways of doing things, which may or may not come naturally to you. As with our experiences on the climbing wall, the more people you surround yourself with who can give you words of encouragement and help support you to take the step up in your career, the easier it becomes to make it out of the comfort zone trap.
Taking the step up to partner is one of the hardest career transitions you will ever make. Playing it safe and doing what you’ve always done is going to handicap your career progression and get yourself labeled as a ‘safe pair of hands’ rather than partner material.
Just like our experiences on the climbing wall, the biggest battle you will need to fight is the voices in your head trying to protect you by telling you to stay where you are. These voices are always there. It’s your choice whether you listen to them or feel the fear and do it any way. A good coach or internal firm mentor will help you to tune into these voices and learn to silence them. Ultimately, the first step to taking any career progression is to switch off the doubting voices in your head and just go for it.
Heather Townsend is a best selling author and executive coach who helps people make partner in the legal, accounting, and consultancy professions. She blogs on the How To Make Partner website, where you can read many more articles about advancing your career to partner.
The new edition of the best selling How To Make Partner And Still Have a Life is out in September 2016. It’s been called ‘an absolute must-read (and potential life saver) for anyone pursuing a professional career.’
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