How we all can, and must, learn to flip in both directions

Updated: Dec 19, 2020

When I was young I was a gymnast, in fact I was a competitive gymnast. For those of you who know me, you’re probably not surprised by this, as I have a competitive attitude and nature in pretty much everything I do.  


However, what you may not know about me is that although I loved doing anything in the forward direction, I absolutely hated doing most things in a backward direction. Why?  Well because when going forward I could see where I was going, but going backward I could not.  It was this fear of the unknown, the uncertainty of how and where my feet and body would end up that scared me.  

However, as a competitor, I pushed through this, got over my fears and just did it. Yes, it took longer for me to master the skill, but in the end I succeeded.


I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately as I get ready to learn my new backwards ‘skill’, which begins in January when I move to spending half my time doing what I love in helping the team at Reward Gateway, and the other half of my time doing what I love in my new independent role as a PIFA.


What you ask, does PIFA stand for?  If you google it, it stands for Pennsylvania Intercollegiate Football Association, which is odd as I was born in Pennsylvania, but to me it stands for Pay It Forward Ambassador. In this role I’ll be doing things I’ve learned that I love doing, which are speaking, running workshops, and even a bit of consulting so that I can, you guessed it, pay it forward.  


Am I scared, yes! What if I can’t do it and land flat on my face? The answer to this question is that yes, I will most certainly fall flat on my face, and yes, I will most likely do this a few times. However, the other answer to this question is that yes, I will be fine in the end, and I will learn the new skill and meet my objectives.

And the reason I’ll be fine are these three things, which in my first act as PIFA, I’ll share with you so that you too will feel confident as you attempt your next backward ‘skill’.   

I’ve been training for this for years. Although it’s a new ‘skill’, I need to remind myself that I’ve actually been training for this my entire career. I’ve been an HR leader for 30 years, a writer for 5 years, and a rebel for the past 2. So everything I’ve learned will serve as a foundation to help me master this new skill.   In gymnastics this meant that when I fell it wouldn’t hurt as much, as I learned how to adjust my body as I was flying through the air. In the workplace, the same is true, as I’ll be able to read the signs and adjust my plan as I move forward.

  1. I have an awesome support network. When I was gymnast I was surrounded by amazing coaches that could watch over and support me as I learned my new skills, picking me up and dusting me off as I got up to try the skill again.   The same is true in the workplace, as I need to remind myself that I have an absolutely awesome support network that I can draw from during this time of uncertainty. Especially in such a social world, supporters can be reached, and respond, in an instant if we only go out and ask for it.

  2. I’ll make a difference. And last but not least, I need to remind myself why I’m learning a new skill to begin with, which is to make a difference in my capacity as a PIFA.  I am committed to fundamentally helping others create more successful businesses by treating their people in new and rebellious ways. This is what Glenn Elliott and I write about in our book, ‘Build it: A rebel playbook for employee engagement‘, and this is the message that I want to get out there. What I’ve learned in the eight months I’ve been travelling the world speaking and holding workshops on this topic is that others believe and are committed to this cause as well. And by helping them by inspiring them to think and act differently, sharing stories, tips and tools, together we can as Reward Gateway’s mission statement says ‘make the world a better place to work’.

So to end this blog, and to inspire us all as we set out to learn and achieve our new backward skills, here are two quotes from two fantastic books I’m currently reading:

“You can’t get to courage without rumbling with vulnerability. Embrace the suck.”  Dr. Brené Brown, ‘Dare to Lead’.“To move forward in many areas of life it is sometimes necessary to change radically, to start a new course that will be different from the existing one, often requiring a whole new way of looking at a familiar problem.” Charles Handy, ‘The Second Curve’.

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