What can we learn from this?

One of my first paintball experiences was in college, when a few buddies and I decided to see what the game was all about.  We had fun, but it was clear we were not as “into it” as some of the other players.

Because there were only three or four of us, we were grouped with other players to make a full game – probably 6 or 7 per team.  At the end of the first game (in which we really didn’t know what we were doing but had fun anyway), one of the other guys on our team gathers us around for a strategy session.Paintball_Player“What can we learn from this?”, he asked the group.

If he wasn’t as serious as a heat attack, I probably wouldn’t remember it so vividly, but this guy was not about to lose again.  I remember thinking, um… “shoot the other people before they shoot you?”  That was my takeaway. I thought that answer was too simplistic, so I kept my mouth shut and let the real strategists work their magic.

Until recently, I sort of got a chuckle when I recalled this incident. I couldn’t believe (at the time) that this guy was SO into this friendly game of paintball. Of course now, as a training professional, I ask myself that same question all the time.

I go to a restaurant and get lousy service… “what can we learn from this?”

I rent a car and get great service… “what can we learn from this?”

I recall my first paintball experience about a guy asking “what can we learn from this?”… “what can we learn from this?”

The vast majority of these experiences become blog posts or stories I tell in my training classes.  Why?  Because there IS a lesson there, if you are willing to look for it.

And that was the light bulb moment that happened for me when I was on a plane recently, inexplicably recalling the paintball drill sergeant.  He was so into it that he wanted to up his game, improve his standing, and wipe out the competition.

I think it’s when we are “into” things that we have a genuine desire to improve and to learn more.  We’ve probably reached a certain maturity in that skill and now can see that there are ways to get better and we are willing to figure out how to get there.

As a paintball novice, I didn’t know or care about how to get better.  I was going to shoot a few people with paint and call it a day. Game over.

But this leadership thing… this customer service thing… this employee engagement thing… I am whole-heartedly INTO those things.  So I ask the questions.

Do you find yourself asking those questions?  If so, what about?  Is it about your role as a leader or the engagement of your team?  Is it about building model railroads, mountain biking or exotic food?  When we examine the topics that command our curiosity, we start to uncover our passions.

If you are trying to find your passion, or tap into the passions of your team, that’s the question you need to ask.  “What am I constantly (and naturally – with no prodding from anyone else) trying to get better at?”  “What do my employees (individually) care so much about that they are willing to take the time, effort and energy to learn more about it and improve their performance?”

I mentioned maturity earlier in relation to a skill, but I also think there is a maturity in knowing that you don’t know everything. When you know what you are passionate about, you know there is so much more to learn… then it seems that everything becomes a learning opportunity.

So I will ask you, what did you learn from this?

Thanks for reading!


It’s more than a book – it’s a training system! 

The Myth of Employee Burnout has been used by several companies as a text book for training their new supervisors. One company said it lead to double-digit growth in productivity and employee satisfaction.  Wouldn’t you like to see how it could do that for you, too?

Book cover with amazon

3 Questions with Amy Hollaman

Okay, so that was an enlightening and educational conversation!

Yesterday I had the pleasure of talking with Amy “Holla” Hollaman from the Eastern State Penitentiary, a truly unique attraction in Philadelphia, PA.  Trust me, after hearing about both the year-round museum and their Halloween event, Terror Behind the Walls, you are definitely going to want to check this place out!

Amy was an incredible guest and I enjoyed getting to know her and her attraction better. Our unscripted conversation brought up some really interesting topics:

  • Changing an organizational culture
  • Superhero powers (and outfits)
  • My preference for being a scareactor
  • Overcoming fear
  • Challenges of marketing a prison as an attraction

Yout tubeTo see the video, click here: 3 Questions with Amy Hollaman

Thanks again, Amy for being a great guest! To learn more about the Eastern State Penitentiary, click here.

Thanks for watching!


If you would like to be a guest on 3 Questions, let me know!  Matt@performanceoptimist.com