Propel Yourself Forward: Let Go of the Monkey Bar

Women who want to get ahead: This week is for you. To get ahead, you must promote yourself. We are here to help you do just that. Check in with us every day this week and we’ll not only tell you how, but also share valuable research, stories, cheer you on and more.

Photo Credit: Christopher Purcell.

Did you ever play on a monkey bar when you were a kid? Young arms cannot both reach the bar behind them and the one in front of them. The only way to traverse the bars and get to the other side is to swing like a monkey, and here’s the secret: letting go of the bar behind you as you propel yourself forward to grab on to the one in front of you. For a split second, you are suspended in mid-air neither hanging on to one bar or the other. 

I have used the metaphor ‘Let go of the monkey bar’ countless times in coaching men and women trying to achieve a higher level of professional success, and many times in my own career and life.

Why is it so scary? Letting go of the monkey bar takes a lot of confidence and momentum because there will be a period of time when you won’t be where you were nor where you want to be. And if you fall there may not be safety net under you.

I have had two major letting go the ‘monkey bar’ experiences in my career. The first was when I decided to leave Bank of America -a career I loved, was successful in and recognized for. I left to launch my first entrepreneurial venture: an executive coaching and organization consulting business. I had just moved to a new city and didn’t know anyone other than my husband, son and one other family. I had no contacts, network or support system but I was ready to venture out on my own. Yet I leapt, leaving everything I knew and was comfortable with.

Fast forward to 15 years later: After building a successful consulting practice I leapt again to launch The Way Women Work with the aim of fulfilling a lifelong dream of being involved in accelerating the advancement and success of business women in developing and emerging markets.

For all of us, there are usually a few major ‘letting go of the bar’ opportunities in our lives and many smaller ones every day. You have to stop doing something you have been doing and start doing something else. It’s usually the case that the things you need to start doing are challenging and uncertain. The things you need to stop doing are usually ones you feel comfortable doing and are likely good at. But if you want to succeed at something new, something big and meaningful you will have no choice.

Here are the 5 keys to getting there:

  1. Decide – First, decide that you want to get somewhere; that you want to make progress.
  2. Be Bold- Psych yourself up to act knowing that for a period of time you will be suspended in mid air transition. Be fearless and aware of the possibility that you may fall down or at a minimum get a few scrapes.
  3. Let Go and Leap – To get from one bar to the next requires two simultaneous actions: letting go and leaping, launching your mind and body forward – not holding back, not being timid and not being tentative.
  4. Keep Going – Traversing the bars takes continual forward motion. If you slow down, get tired or stop in the middle you will be stuck. If you somehow try to hold on to the bar behind you (the past) and the one in front of you (the future) you will get very tired, lose momentum and come to a standstill. I learnt the hard way about what happens if you hold on to both when I stayed connected to my coaching business as I launched The Way Women Work. I quickly found that I was not achieving the level of results I was used to in either endeavor.
  5. Reach – The way to make it is to keep your eye on the end, the goal, the place you want to be. Only that end point will keep propelling you forward and sustain you when its hard, when you are tired and even if you fall down.

“When I let go of what I am,
I become what I might be.”
 – Lao Tzu