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I used to take my daughter on Saturday mornings to her roller-skating lesson. I sat quietly with the other parents, sipping my sports hall, barista-like coffee.

As I sat contemplating how the seconds were ticking by interminably, something occurred to me while watching people at various stages of skating competence arms flailing, fall over, laugh, get up and continue without missing a beat.

The previous year when my daughter first started, I recall her coach starting the Introduction-to-Skating lesson with a brief demonstration of what skating was, by executing a series of leg-in-the-air, forwards and backwards rolling movements. Stirring stuff for the beginner.

She then said “before you get to this stage, you need to learn the basics. Let’s start with Learning-to-Fall. Bend your knees and lower yourself down to land on your natural cushions. Try to avoid straight hands etc.”.

The whole first lesson was dedicated to learning to fall, and then how to get up.

This initial lesson taught my daughter that you will definitely fall, how to minimise injury to yourself and others, and when you do fall, how to pick yourself up and keep going.

Subsequent lessons focused on higher-level skating skills and techniques that subsequently reduced and/or eradicated falls.

The initial lesson on Learning-to-Fall gave her the foundational confidence to push herself and to try new things, knowing that if she tripped up, she knew what to do.

In my various leadership roles, in the pursuit of excellence, accelerated performance, revenue generation, global market domination etc. – I wondered if I had ever taught my teams to fall?

Had I acknowledged that mistakes will be made, and it’s okay, as long as you learn how to soften the fall, how to pick yourself up and keep going – and learning from it?

Would knowing that falling, picking yourself up and ultimately not falling, have made a significant difference to their confidence as they formed and developed their competence?

Would Learning-to-Fall first have provided my teams with the foundation, encouragement, and inspiration to go to that next level that defines a high performing team?

Would Learning-to-Fall first, have a positive impact on resilience and wellbeing?

As I watched my daughter fall less and less each week, as she mastered new skills with a mile-wide grin, I reckoned there was something in Learning-to-Fall first.

Associate Professor Danny Simms

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