That Old Yarn: Insights from an unlikely source


My garden is often the source of inspiration and insights, but winter in the Midwest requires me to find other recreational activities. Since I’m not a fan of the cold, that usually means something indoors.

A few winters back, I was convinced by a video tutorial that I could arm-knit a gorgeous, chunky, green infinity scarf. I quickly went to buy the yarn and, once home, followed along with the video until I missed a step and got stuck. I tried again…and again…and again. Each time my arms would be covered in loops of green – the potential for something beautiful – but I couldn’t tell from the video how to make the next transition that turned it from just a bunch of yarn into that gorgeous scarf I desired. I gave up and the yarn sat for two years.

INSIGHT #1 – I sometimes give up too easily when I should persevere. In order to learn and grow, we must be self-aware. That’s one of the reasons I became certified in administering and interpreting the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), a well-respected personality preference assessment. Knowing one’s self lays an essential foundation for understanding and working effectively with others.

Finding myself indoors and organizing as the snow began to fly this past November, I came upon my ball of green yarn and decided I really should do something with it. I acquired some crochet hooks, watched a few tutorials and was determined, after all, to make a scarf. What followed was a somewhat painful process of stitching, ripping out, and stitching again. The result was not at all the product that was planned, but I was able to turn it into something wearable. So, with some remaining yarn and a shred of confidence, I decided to make a matching hat. Again, not perfect, but it didn’t turn out bad.

I could have and, perhaps, should have left it there, but I didn’t. I couldn’t! Soon I had amassed a collection of crochet hooks and yarn in a quest to master the basics and make something that I could actually be proud of. Truth be told, it was an obsession.

INSIGHT #2 – Personality traits often manifest in unpredictable ways. Overuse of even a positive trait can potentially become a flaw. My MBTI type is INTJ. One of the potential flaws of an INTJ is competitiveness. This is true for me, but it doesn’t always show up in the way people may assume it would. Yes, on occasion I have engaged in some one-upmanship with others, but it is more likely to show up appropriately as drive, but when overused as perfectionism. I compete with myself. Hence my new obsession for crochet. I often use MBTI as part of team building and communications training, and this is an example of why I think it’s crucial to have an expert help facilitate the individual and group discovery process related to personality preferences. The process can be incredibly insightful and powerful. Yet, used improperly, personality preference assessments can be dangerous. It’s all too easy to administer a test and slap a label on someone that a) they fail to fully explore and use as justification for their behavior, or b) others use as a basis for false assumptions and a formula for how to “handle” them.

Finally, after many attempts, quite a few swatches of mangled yarn, and a few finished scarves and hats that were just okay, I hit upon a pattern I could master and made some things that turned out so nicely I was proud to gift them to others. I was half-tempted to finish off my hoard of yarn making scarves for all my friends and family and then be done with the whole thing when a friend challenged me to a more significant project. We spent this past Saturday together as she helped me learn new stitches and patterns. She observed, offered advice, helped me break some bad habits, and answered my questions while I practiced. She offered encouragement when I was frustrated and had things so messed up I couldn’t even pull it back to fix it. At the end of they day, what I produced was still flawed, but I was able to recognize those flaws and figure out what I need to do going forward. It may have been a painful process, but I’m in a place where I can grow from here.

INSIGHT #3 – Sometimes we need to be reminded and reassured that growth and learning can be really messy – and necessarily so. As a trainer and instructional designer, I often need to do just that for others. Some learning consists of sequential and incremental acquisitions of knowledge and skills. It stretches us, but not too far, as each new piece builds upon the last. Other growth and learning – transformational learning – often requires us to completely step out of our comfort zone. It doesn’t always build nicely on what we thought we knew, but rather breaks down our paradigm and reshapes and transforms our thinking, often enabling us to move forward exponentially. That can look messy and feel extremely uncomfortable while we’re in the process, but we can emerge better on the other end.

CONCLUSION: Everything comes down to growth and learning for me. It’s what I’m passionate about, not only for myself, but helping others to learn and grow. I may not be the person who can show you how to crochet, but if you’re interested in gaining insights for your own personal growth or moving your organization forward, I’m your woman.

#learning #transformationallearning #mentoring #coaching #feedback #growth #MyersBriggs #MBTI #personality #selfawareness #teambuilding #training

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