I get a real kick out of recognizing connections. How one thing leads unexpectedly to another. How the small joys feed the big delights. How a lesson learned can morph into a philosophy for personal growth. And I especially love how working at EPI has opened my eyes to the many intersections between everyday life and learning.

We never know when and where a flash of intersectional insight might strike. For me, it recently happened as I watched from the observation deck of a parkour gym.

My daughter couldn’t jump high enough to grab a bar, so she climbed to it from another fixture. She succeeded in reaching the spot she wanted, prompting another parkour participant to remark, “I like that you didn’t let anything stop you, even though you couldn’t reach the bar.” That kind of camaraderie and encouragement is one reason she has never felt uncomfortable at this gym, even though she’s often the youngest person and only female there.

Of course, the leaders of this parkour gym are the ones who have set the tone. They don’t just know their stuff inside out, they know how to make others want to know it too. They model enthusiasm, confidence, preparation, and cooperation. And the gym facilitators do all this while challenging the diverse participants to move beyond fear and insecurity. Most of all, they make it fun… to do and to watch.

So, what connections did I make as I watched the busy parkour practitioners and their coaches? Here are a few insights that come to mind.

  • If you want to improve your performance, you have to practice. Well, sure. But research shows that rote repetition alone doesn’t cut it; we must practice deliberately. We get better when we build on prior knowledge and intentionally repeat activities (practice!) with a goal toward developing more complex skills.
  • Use it or lose it. Even after we become proficient, we have to keep honing (“overlearning”) our skills.
  • If you’re a facilitator and/or leader, in any discipline, you can’t just wing it. You have to prepare. Know your audience and your material.
  • Approach your subject with enthusiasm if you want people to become enthused in turn. Like musicians who play with energy and freshness, even on songs they’ve performed a thousand times, you have to “show up” as a leader every time, ready to rock and roll.
  • If one way doesn’t work, try a different path to reach the same objective.
  • Peer encouragement and recognition is extremely motivating. Friendship and general camaraderie engender team loyalty and increase job satisfaction.

But here’s the connection between real life and learning & development that I like the most:

It’s not the falling down that matters, it’s the getting up!

Words to live by… at a parkour gym, in a leadership classroom, or after a disheartening day at the office. Get back up, dust yourself off, learn something, and do it better the next time. And the time after that.


lead change well photo of Michelle Kelly

Michelle Kelly, CEO (Chief Enjoyment Officer)



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