You get out of it what you put into it. That was my Leadership Austin “Essential” class experience, at least.
I applied and was accepted, but I was skeptical and annoyed. Just before the weekend of the first retreat, my father had another stroke scare and my mind was on that and on the train wreck of work ahead of me at the office. My distracted packing for the overnight retreat resulted in dirty jeans, three cardigans, underwear and random bits of toiletries and makeup. Coming into that first day, I’d slept about four hours.
During introductions, someone talked about how their father had deeply affected their lives, and I had to leave the room. (Yes, it’s that kind of retreat.) I couldn’t focus. Thoughts of work and family swirled around in feelings of guilt and worry. What the hell was I doing here? So much to do.
I knew a few people but most of them were total strangers. And yet I had been asked to reveal to them things my husband didn’t know about me yet, all before noon on the first day.
In the afternoon, we were set into small groups outside for games. We had no idea what type of games they were, but I was ready for fresh air and a little movement by that time.
At one point we were taken off the trail. They blindfolded each of us and led us one by one to a maze. There were ropes tied to trees, and we had to hold on with our right hand and follow them out of the maze. If we needed help, we could raise our hand.
Help. Help? It’s a maze in the woods! I don’t need any help.
Blindfolded with thoughts to myself, holding on to a rope, ducking through trees, over rocks, stumbling along at a fast pace…. I thought I was doing great. No problem.
But it was taking forever. It started to feel like I was passing places I’d been before. (Ugh, I’m not that bright about myself.) I joked with the woman behind me that I thought we were going in circles.
And yet I kept going. For a long time. Finally, kind of bored with the whole thing and ready to move on, I raised my hand and asked for help. Someone came over and lifted my blindfold. Nearly everyone else was finished, standing over to the side quietly. Looking at me. That was it: Asking for help got you out of the maze.
Oh. Wait. Okay, were they trying to tell me something?
This revelation about how I never ask for help has stuck with me. Lifting off that blindfold… well, not to overstate it, but it probably changed my life.
From that point, I was open to everything Leadership Austin had to teach me. I would meet Austin leaders doing amazing work in the community, getting things done because they could work with all kinds of people and see through to a shared goal. I would learn about the biggest issues facing our community and how our future depended on how much we could lift up the people who needed the most help.
I learned about my goals and what I needed to do to achieve them. I was able to sit down and literally map out my life – work, family, faith, community, all of it.
I drank the Kool-Aid. I mean, I sat down with a glass and the pitcher and gulped the whole thing. I made 2012 “The Year of Monica Asking for Help.” And it’s working.
I’m accomplishing more, asking for more and spending more time with my family. I have people I can share success with now, and I can call those same people when something is a total bust (which it never is, but things can be disappointing).
The Austin Community Foundation paid for my enrollment, and it’s reaping big rewards for them, too. I can think of a dozen times when something I learned in class made my work more effective. Where I was able to approach a problem or a new relationship and get to a place where everyone was happy and we would find the best solution for everyone.
Now that the Best Class Ever of 2012 has graduated and they’re accepting applications for 2013, I have to tell you something: Apply. Yes, applying stinks and it makes you feel desperate, but you’re not desperate. You’re smart.
But when you get accepted and you go on that opening retreat, be open. Don’t worry about being ready, you will be. But stay alert and participate. You won’t regret it.
Applications are due June 11, but hurry. They need letters of recommendation and the application requires a little time. Click here to learn more.