Monday, December 31, 2012

The banana story: embracing challenges

George Patton has said “Accept challenges, so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.” Although I may never get to know the bliss of a warrior winning a battle, I have uncovered for myself that stepping up to challenges offers only positives in my professional path- if I do well I build my own confidence and appetite for more, if not: I get a learning point and try a different strategy next time.
Highly encourage you to try it for yourself in your professional path!
But instead of just preaching, let me share one of my experiences ...

It was some time ago, when I had a conversation with one of my great mentors and shared a potential trajectory of my career development. She challenged me as a first step to introduce myself to one of the senior leaders visiting the office.
And there I was with this challenge at a networking breakfast surrounded by more than 100 of my national fellows. I really wanted not to make it too public and kind of to remain unnoticed so I don’t get all the judging looks. In my country introducing yourself to a senior manager is somewhat of an unusual behavior- there is fairly bigger hierarchical distance than for instance- in the American culture.
I started walking around the packed hall looking to spot the senior leader. My heart was beating like crazy “What should I say? What will he think of me? What others will think of me?” I was really getting on the verge of declaring myself of extremely reckless for what I was about to do…
Oh here he was- standing alone next to the catering table, putting some cookies in his plate.
Like on an autopilot, I quickly moved among the packed hall and was right there next to him in seconds … so as I was saying “Hi, good morning, so happy to see you…” my brain prompted me a tip from a networking book I read to mimic what the other person is doing to start establishing rapport. So I took a plate and looked quickly over the table to put something in it… there were all kinds of cookies and fruits. I had to use special utensils to put in my plate for most of the sweets as I couldn’t risk getting my hands dirty for the normal follow-up shake of hands. However I couldn't have used the utensils neighter, as I was feeling the nervousness in my hands and dropping them on the floor, completely embarrassing myself was not an option… so the best choice was … an unpeeled banana.
Happy that I passed the first 1 minute and we were already standing with full plates, starting off a nice conversation …
Oops something was wrong. Bang, bang, bang. It wasn’t my heart making this noise  anymore, but what was it?
Looked around secretly, when I noticed my hand was shaking so heavily that the poor banana handle was knocking on my plate!
Has he noticed? I put so much effort in managing what I say and my facial expression to appear calm and assertive that all of the stress had gone in my hand holding that empty plate with the unpeeled banana.

Bang bang…had to make it stop, felt like everyone was hearing it…pulled my other hand up and grabbed the plate with both hands, which stabalized the situation.
The conversation came to an end and I moved a way to another table. I was immensely happy- made it through the challenge despite that it was somewhat contradictory to my culture, although I was frankly speaking very scared I may embarrass myself, irrespective that my arms, being crunched in the deadly grip of that plate with the banana, were just killing me of muscle pain!
Guess what happened next? The senior leader a few hours later introduced me to a peer of him whom I have aspired as a career role model and sponsored a trip for me to our headquarters to work on a project with the global team!
I would always now tag bananas with success and would keep on embracing challenges in 2013!
…however would need to work more on managing stress holisticallyJ
Happy to learn from your thoughts and experiences on challenges.

The herein thoughts and ideas shared are solely opinions of the author.

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