The way we used to teach kids to ride bikes is all wrong. The trick is to get them, from a very young age, onto a balance bike so they can spend a year or two wooshing around by pushing the ground and, in the process, they slowly learn balance.
Then, when they’re ready, “learning to ride a bike” is just about being comfortable with a higher seat and learning to pedal.
Think how much harder we make it with training wheels: kids learn to ride and pedal, and, mile after mile, it’s reinforced that balance doesn’t matter at all. Then one day we take off the wheels and say, “keep riding this bike you’ve been on for years, you’ve just got to unlearn the not-balancing part.”
This kind of misdiagnosis happens every day in our grown-up life, only this time “balance”—the core skills we expect you to develop by unlearning all sorts of bad habits–are the long list of “soft” skills that are devalued by the very label.
Here’s a starting list of the grown-up-skills equivalents of ‘balance’: a good attitude, not getting ruffled easily, apologizing in a genuine way, being deeply curious, willingness to hear and adjust to feedback, knowing how to consistently write in a professional but human way, being straight with people, caring, responsiveness, honesty, being in touch with your emotions at work, learning to say what you really think, demonstrating respect, disagreeing constructively, not overreacting to criticism, actually believing that, sometimes (even when you were positive you were right), it will turn out you were totally wrong and someone else was totally right, saying ‘let’s go for it’ even when you’re not sure it will work out.