On Missing Opportunities Due to Isolation

March 07, 2021

During a leadership training course, our instructor posed a question about how we could improve our community in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Suggestions could range from promoting social distancing to encouraging mask-wearing and frequent exercise. After a reflective five-minute silence, the instructor invited people to share their thoughts. Surprisingly, no one volunteered. We all avoided making eye contact with him. Finally, he moved on to debriefing the session, marking a moment of collective realization that although we were enrolled in a leadership course, none of us took the initiative to speak or lead. When questioned, some admitted they were afraid of misunderstanding the topic, some claimed they didn't know what to say, and others confessed to feeling shy. This was an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills, but I, too, failed to seize it.

2021 03 07

If I could turn back time, I would certainly raise my hand, ready my thoughts, and take the floor. I should have remembered that people are likely to forget my words and that we may never cross paths again. Most daily memories fade; I've already forgotten more than 80% of what the instructor taught and couldn't even recognize the attendees today. This is regrettable, as my original intent for joining the course was to expand my professional network.

In retrospect, there are several lessons I've learned. Firstly, I should embrace every opportunity that comes my way. Each chance carries inherent risks; for example, a joke might not land well because humor varies across cultures. However, what's the worst that could happen? While it might be uncomfortable, it won't be life-threatening and will probably offer a valuable lesson. Secondly, I plan to improve my public speaking abilities, which is why I'm joining a Toastmasters club. Though it feels unnatural for me to address a crowd, that's better than remaining silent when I have valuable insights to add to the conversation. Thirdly, I would remind myself to take a deep breath and enjoy the spotlight rather than stressing about it.

By being open to various experiences, I can become a better leader. I'll seize every opportunity to provide impactful presentations and exhibit charisma, even in socially uncomfortable situations.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn