As a young girl, I studied ballet for many years with a wonderful teacher, Judy Coleman, in Midland, Texas. Ms. Coleman was very strict and ran a tight ship in her studio. (Woe to you if you showed up with painted fingernails!) One day in class while attempting a challenging turn, I fell. As soon as I hit the floor, I worried about what harsh words awaited me. So I was surprised to hear applause and even more surprised to see her walking toward me and helping me off the floor. “Only real dancers fall,” she announced to the class. This happened twenty-five years ago (maybe more?), and yet I think about it all the time. To be very clear, I am not a dancer, but the idea of committing fully to something – so fully that the only options are to either complete the turn or to fall – feels so relevant to my work today.
The idea of failure has almost been glamorized in our world today. It’s not uncommon for headlines to read like HBO’s next hit mini-series. (I’m looking at you, Sam Bankman-Fried…) So on one hand, you’d think it’s an idea we’d all be more comfortable with. On the other hand, the sensationalism surrounding these stories almost makes them surreal or fantastical – taking place in a world that seems completely foreign from my own. A world where funding flows like water and accountability isn’t part of the lexicon. Risks are seemingly taken without any thought to the potential consequences.
I certainly don’t mean to push the pendulum all the way back to the other side. Risk-taking is critical to delivering the great work that we promise our clients and each other. Taking risks with people I trust and respect has proven to deliver some of the most meaningful work of my career.
As I reflect on 2022, and I look around the group of people I’m surrounded by everyday – some of whom I’ve worked with for over a decade; some of whom I’ve worked with for just a few months – I’m incredibly grateful to work with people who help me take leaps, who don’t laugh at me when I fall, and who inspire me to reach beyond what I can see.
Ms. Coleman passed away in 2020, and I never had the chance to tell her how this seemingly small moment in her class left such a significant impact on me. As we move into the new year, I’m confident, anxious, and exhilarated about what’s to come. It’s inevitable that not everything will go my way, but what I know I can count on is the people around me who will be right there with me every step of the way.
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