March 29, 2023

Pursue the Panic

The Panic

Three weeks ago I sat in a conference room in Austin, Texas with 28 strangers and was told that, by the end of the 60-min session, I’d be performing a freestyle rap.

It was South By Southwest (SXSW), an annual conference that highlights tech, film, music, education, and culture, and I had come to learn about workplace revolution. This was definitely not about workplace revolution.

So, I did what most self-preservationists would do – I panicked, and immediately scoped out a quick exit. Then the facilitator said: “I know many of you just told yourself you’ll never be able to rap, but if you stay the course, we’ll get you there together.”

Out of a mixture of curiosity and pride, I rooted myself more deeply into my chair, “Okay, prove it,” I thought – in reference to myself or the facilitator, I’m still not sure. But for the next hour, I committed to saying “yes” and took it step by step.

The Process

First, we just named our observations and associations: clock, time, window, sky…

Next, we tried rhyming those observations: sky, high, bye, nigh, try, lie…

Then, we connected sentence fragments with rhyming: I try my best / You can put me to the test / I don’t need rest / Just follow me to the west

And finally, they set a timer for two minutes and told us to use what we’d learned to share a story of ourselves with our partners in freestyle rap form.

That was the longest two minutes of my life. But I kept going until the end, and you know what? It felt…incredible.

The Pursuit

Now, am I going to continue the pursuit of freestyle rapping? Probably not. Am I giving any public (or private, for that matter) performances anytime soon? Absolutely not. But to use those as measures of success would be missing the point. The takeaway is at a moment of panic or pursuit I chose the pursuit. And after that short hour, I left feeling like a stronger, fuller version of myself because of it.

It reminded me of the power of learning and of the power of pursuing your edges and why so much of our work at Ei focuses on helping people expand their learning zones.

Often, we associate grandness or extremes with panic. But, let this be proof that it doesn’t have to be grand and it certainly doesn’t have to be extreme, either. Sometimes, all it takes is saying “yes” to that tiny fear in the pit of your stomach.

So, what small risk do you need to say yes to?

Whether or not it involves a freestyle rap, we're rooting for you.

Happy Wednesday,


P.S. I documented my SXSW experience plus takeaways from each day on the ground on my LinkedIn. If you’re interested, connect with me and read more there.

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