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Learning to Pivot

If you are easily squeamish, this is probably not the blog post for you.

If you are waiting for deep insights into learning and the industry, then you might want to click next to continue.

I highly value good hotel service. I am not talking about fancy and expensive, because I am neither of those things. However, I travel more than once a month these days, so I notice the little things. I admire the folded edges of a loo roll, the chocolate on a pillowcase, and even the little sign reminding you to reuse your towel to help save the environment. When I checked into my charming hotel in Madrid, I was quite chuffed to see a plate of biscuits personalized with “Welcome Lori” piped in delicate chocolate letters. “Well that’s a nice touch,” I thought to myself.

I never sleep well the first night after a transatlantic travel, so I found myself awake at 1AM. All I could smell were the strong vanilla and coconut from the biscuits. I hate to waste food or offend talented Spanish pastry chefs, but I wrapped them in a napkin and placed them in the waste bin. 3AM awake. I still could not shake the smell of the cookies.

I am not proud of what I did next, but I flushed them down the toilet. Or rather, I tried to. To my horror, instead of gently dispatching into the Madrid sewer system, they floated. Not only that, after a dozen flushes, they also expanded to twice their size.

So, there I was staring into the toilet bowl at two rapidly growing cookies mocking me. I also had to pee, which was a problem I will not elaborate upon.

Your mind works in strange ways when you have been a global pinball for eight months and are standing flummoxed in a bathroom in Spain. It suddenly dawned on me this whole ridiculous scenario was equal parts absurd and an extremely apropos metaphor for my entire 2018.

If I had to choose a word to describe this year, it would be: pivot, which is really a self-help fancy word for “figure out your sh*t and do it fast or get run over”. I mean, I started 2018 bright-eyed and bushy-tailed with a clear vision and pointed myself squarely towards True North, like a good little Canadian…except along the way I encountered many bumps and bruises, turbulence, and emerged this December more than slightly bedraggled, but still raising a celebratory toast and managing a somewhat decent, “woot!”.

So, what did I learn? Well, interestingly, none of my lessons came from an online course, book, or article, which is ironic for someone in L&D. It was more like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, encountering helpful docents along the crazy yellow brick road that was 2018. I had the benefit of an insane network of wisdom and experience, which was better than any Masterclass I could ever enroll in. To all my scarecrows, lions, and tin men and women, thank you.  I am very lucky and vow to pay it forward.

This realization was a huge reminder to me of the importance of connections and mentors, during periods of rapid growth and learning. Right now, a scenario is playing out in Ontario where a one-industry town is about to be decimated by the closure of a Ford manufacturing plant. This is not unique to Canada. Replace this province with any other state or region in the world, and automotive with any other industry and it is the same.

An LMS, content library, MOOC, or even an LXP, will not upskill these employees enough to navigate that type of upheaval. Regular contact with coaches and experts over an extended period is necessary. Sadly, this is unlikely to be invested in. But that’s a future blog post.    

I also learned: to do what you really want to do takes hard work. Yes, I know. This statement is the type of mindless drivel I despise seeing on LI. I’m looking at you Simon Sinek. Still, it was something I had to learn (and not simply post against an Instagram-worthy background photo of me with a sunset, wearing a Coachella flower crown, seated in the lotus pose). For me, the hard work was not investing more time. It was pushing myself to go after the things I truly wanted to accomplish, even when my rational brain was screaming, “this is NOT safe!”. Easier said than done.

Back to the cookies: I stayed awake for a few hours until the buffet opened. I left my room for breakfast, leaving the “do not disturb” sign on my door. Cleaning staff work damn hard (please treat them well) and I was not letting someone else sort out my dilemma. I texted my mother for advice. She sent a laughing emoji.

As luck would have it, several hours was enough time for two cookies to dissipate. In the clear light of day, and two quick flushes, all the evidence was gone. I suppose this leads me to my third lesson of 2018: things that give you a wave of anxiety at 3AM are likely to be easily solved after a rest and a cup of coffee. A flush can also help.

I am starting to see glimpses of change in the L&D industry, which gives me great hope for 2019. Technologies are finally catching up, new thought leaders are emerging, and personally, I am doing the type of work I enjoy with progressive clients. Maybe this is a repeat of the naïve outlook for 2018, but I will take hope with a dash of optimism.  

Happy New Year and all the best to you and yours for 2019.

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