written by Courtney Lynch
The new year is always a time of reflection for me.

By looking back at the past year, I gain insight that informs my vision and strategy for the coming year and the greater future. For me, 2017 was a year of significant growth. I realize now that this growth occurred because I found “the heat.”

Last year, I ran for public office, a local role in my community. Yet, with the state of politics today, it was brutal. The schedule pushed me physically, as I worked by day and campaigned by evening and weekends. Perhaps more intense than the busyness, the experience pushed me emotionally as I had to combat insecurity, doubt, fear and worry.

My team and I ended up winning what most thought would be a very close race by an 11-point margin. While the moment of the victory was exhilarating, I am now months later realizing that the experience has transformed me. I now operate from a greater center of peace, confidence and joy. I am both more settled and energized at the same time. I’m dealing with new complexities and I feel more prepared for the challenge. I can tell I’ve grown and it feels fantastic. To understand why I have this new sense of expanded capacity, I turned to research.

Our partners at the Center for Creative Leadership have spent decades studying what it takes to accelerate leadership development. They conclude that “heat experiences” are the fuel for growth of a leader’s mindset, capability and results.

Heat experiences are projects, tasks or assignments that meet these conditions:

  1. It’s a first-time experience. 
  2. Results matter.
  3. There’s a chance of success and failure.
  4. Important people are watching.
  5. It is extremely uncomfortable.

Any experience that includes three or more of the above conditions sets you up for accelerated growth as a person and as a professional. My campaign for public office met all five criteria. Examples of heat at work can include leading a team for the first time, moving to a special project outside of your lane of expertise, being asked to turn around an under-performing group, or taking on the launch of an important new initiative. If you want to grow, seek the heat.

For me, 2018 will be a year where I work hard to apply what I’ve learned. Heat is powerful, we need to pace our exposure to it to avoid burnout. While this year will be one where application matters most, I know it won’t be long until I’m back on the lookout for the next opportunity to be forged in the fire.

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