A Lesson from A Dark Room

| | Personal Leadership


If I were to put you in a completely dark room and you had no idea where the door was, how would you find the door?

You would have to take a step, and adjust for your next step given the “feedback”, wouldn’t you?  You would probably bump into things.  You may even get a few bruises.  You might feel uncomfortable or scared and perhaps get frustrated, too. 

It is likely you would have to change course a few times just to find your way to a wall, let alone the door.  

Of course, eventually, with enough trial, error, and discovery you would find your way to that door.

Learning to lead or elevating your leadership to the next level can feel a lot like being in that dark room. 

You may have gotten to where you are based on who you have been, what you know and what you have contributed so far.  But to get to whatever the next level is for you, you must travel through inherently unfamiliar territory.

You can wait for someone to turn the proverbial lights on: to learn enough, know enough or be certain enough to have confidence in taking that next step.  Or you can mindfully choose a next step and see what happens.  Sure you may metaphorically bump into things or fall down.   The alternative, however, is to stand still, wait and hope.

“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” Confucious

Leadership requires action.  There is no way around it.  You must act and then respond given the feedback from the world around you.  This is the only way to turn the lights of real learning and growth on inside of you.  It is only by taking action that we can truly understand what it means to be a leader.

Besides, one of the best ways to lead people out of their comfort zone is to get out of your own.

What action will you take today to take a step forward in growing as a leader?


Enter A Comment

Jennifer V. Miller   |   18 April 2013   |   Reply


I love the imagery you have created with the “dark room” – it so closely mimics that feeling of near-panic that being put into a dark room might evoke. Only those who bravely start “moving about” are going to make progress.

Nice post!

Susan Mazza   |   18 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks Jen! Think I’m actually getting used to being in the dark 🙂

Saloni   |   23 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks for such an enlightening post Susan! Great metaphor and so well said that leadership starts by taking action and getting out of your comfort zone. To lead and inspire people, leaders have to strech themselves and lead by example. Enjoyed reading the post!

Susan Mazza   |   23 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks so much Saloni and glad you enjoyed the post. Getting out of our own comfort zone is one of the ways we can lead the change we wish to see in the world around us.

John Marcello   |   23 April 2013   |   Reply

Such a great great metaphor…thanks.

John Marcello   |   23 April 2013   |   Reply

I really enjoyed this…

Susan Mazza   |   23 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks John. And I especially want to thank you for all the great work you have done on my site this year. One of the keys to finding your way in that dark room is to find people who can shine the light where you are in the dark!

Molly   |   24 April 2013   |   Reply

Such a great point you make! I agree that the most effective and successful leaders are the ones who aren’t afraid to “bump into things or fall down.” Thanks for the encouraging, thoughtful post.

Susan Mazza   |   24 April 2013   |   Reply

Thanks Molly. The good news is after enough bumping and falling enough you will learn to bounce!

Chery Gegelman   |   08 May 2013   |   Reply

Susan – I love this! Ashort post filled with so many great points!
So many seasons in my life have felt like dark rooms. Thank you for the reminders that in the doing that we remember, and in the choice to leave our comfort zones we grow!

My entrepreneurial journey has been filled with a mix of faith, action, and waiting, and I have used a similar analogy to describe that journey.. I am on a stone path in intense fog that is so thick you can’t see anything. After awhile one stone emerges from the fog. As soon as the stone emerges, I take that step in faith and wait. When the next stone emerges I step again. I’m never sure what is more uncomfortable the waiting or the stepping!

Susan Mazza   |   08 May 2013   |   Reply

Absolutely love the stones in the fog analogy Chery. Thanks so much for sharing it. Hmmm, is waiting or stepping more uncomfortable? Personally, I am not a fan of the discomfort of waiting!