Asking for help is always a humbling experience: You’re vulnerable, putting yourself out there and trusting the person you ask to answer the questions that you can not. And that isn’t easy. It takes some practice. But it’s how we grow, and ultimately there comes a moment when people start asking YOU for answers, and looking to you for guidance. In the parkour community, leaders set the example for the next generation of movers, and in doing so mold the future of the sport.
Leadership is unbiased to whom, what and where. Once you’ve trained hard enough, and achieved a certain level of proficiency, people will want to know how they can reach that level as well. How they can overcome problems that you may have had in the past; problems you had to figure out alone, and which took a much more trial and error approach.
People tend to shy away from leadership because they feel undeserving of it, or uncomfortable being “idolized” seeing their own flaws and shortcomings so clearly. It’s completely normal human nature, but don’t let your insecurities outweigh your successes in the eyes of others. If you’re really good at skill A but lack in skill B, then allow yourself to help others who ask for assistance in skill A. You still have something to offer, so don’t let that which you’re still learning hinder your willingness to bond with others and lend your knowledge. There’s a reason someone is asking for your advice, so take it as a sign that they look up to you.
One thing a lot of people in the parkour community say is, “that was shit.” Terms like that only promote negative energy. If you’re the most experienced traceur in your group and you keep hitting a bounce back on a kong (catpass) precision where no one else is even trying, don’t exclaim, “I SUCK,” around your peers. It sets up a thought process that unless they can all hit bounce backs like you they are somehow less; that whatever they are training isn’t as valuable, and it will likely discourage further practice. This is not being a good leader: You must be positive and encouraging. Teach others the way and help them succeed.
Leaders lift others up while still showing people what’s possible with hard work. Let your tribe know you are there for them. Encourage growth, and build camaraderie, trust and a sense of value. Acknowledge that while it may take time away from your own personal training and practice, helping others and demonstrating that leadership ability will return the good energy back to you. It will be worth all the hard work you put in.
You have to give people a reason to be a part of something. Something to strive for. Learning how to market yourself is an invaluable skill. Using social media is another. When I created the hashtag #parkournyc I knew it was something that would help connect people in my city and community. I wanted to start something that others could continue with or without me, and now my community is more tight knit than ever before. People are training on their own and coming out to our weekly jams. Everyone is consistently progressing and we are growing everyday. It’s a wonderful thing, and I encourage you to find a way to foster connections within your community through social media. Think like an entrepreneur, try to put yourself in the shoes of others and see the bigger picture.
#parkournyc has given everyone an outlet to channel their interests, and allowed my community to come together and grow. I don’t do the biggest standing precisions or have the best flips, but I know that people in my community feel comfortable talking to me regardless of my skill level. I know that through the hard work of hosting jams every Saturday and making sure to showcase the people of my city, I have become the leader I wanted to be in my community.
Knowing that people see you as someone they trust and look up to, especially when it’s a niche skill, one you’ve worked so hard at for so long out of love, is true validation. I don’t care who you are, when people acknowledge you as a source of information in your passion it feels really good. It benefits all, so be kind and be humble, but most of all be approachable.
It really doesn’t matter what you can or can’t do with your skill: What matters is how dedicated you are to learning and progressing, and using that drive to help others who want to follow in your footsteps. The people who follow you do so for your reasons, so make sure they’re good ones.