What’s the point of being in an armadillo race?  What is the value in holding one of these odd-looking animals while you’re in Texas?

A woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop.It’s nothing more – or less – than pushing yourself to do what you might be uncomfortable doing. After my experiences last week, I can only encourage you to move past your own boundaries as well.

I went on a business hunting expedition to Austin, Texas. My destination was a huge annual conference of certified women business owners (WBENC) and large corporations who want to do business with us.  As a first time attendee, I really did not know what to expect and admit to being somewhat overwhelmed.

At the orientation for newcomers, we were advised to figure out who we wanted to meet with at the all-day exposition the next day – with more than 500 companies in the cavernous exhibition hall. “Wear comfortable shoes,†they told us. “Have your elevator pitch ready. Say it, listen to what you’re advised to do, and move on.â€

Although I came armed with new brochures, a colorful mousepad giveaway, and a fairly perfected “elevator pitch,†it was daunting to approach strangers in their booths all day long. I did manage to strike up meaningful conversations and met quite a few potential clients.

I was also fortunate to have secured one formal “matchmaker†appointment with a large energy company the next day.  Turned out that the company needed communication training for its younger managers, as many of the more seasoned workers were retiring.  To get a contract is a complex and slow process but would be worth it in the long run, the diversity officer assured.A woman sitting at a table with papers and a laptop.

The pace of the armadillo race that evening was totally different! Despite my misgivings about being in a small pen with three of these armored rat-like critters, I joined two friends, a mother-daughter team, for the race. Our instructions: “Hold them by the tail firmly, and keep your other hand on its head†until the start.†It’s actually much harder than it looks to hold on!

In less than two minutes, the armadillos, with us closely behind, had reached the far end of the pen.  Emily – the daughter – came in first and I was second. Then, I posed for a picture – putting on long gloves to hold my new spiny friend.

My point: to become a better speaker and leader, you’ve got to get yourself out there. When you do, you’ll be amazed at how much you can experience, how much stronger you’ll be as a result.