7 Life Lessons learned from a (Autism Focused) Bowling game
I participated in an autism focused bowling game yesterday where participants were mostly autistic, kindly sponsored by a corporate company.
As I enjoyed the experience of going through the experience and observed what was going on, I realised bowling (like other sports) can teach us life lessons. I will, as best as I can, contextualize these lessons to life of autistics
LESSON 1: DON'T QUIT WHEN THINGS DON'T START OUT WELL
Some of us who are not experienced bowlers (like myself) might find that within the first few throws, the bowling ball often goes into the gutters. It is a discouraging start.
In life, like in bowling, don't quit when things don't start out well at the initial stage. There are bound to be hiccups at the start but press on, tweak your approach if necessary, get help from others, and hopefully things will get better. The bowling scores did get better as we continued to bowl and tweak our approaches in how we throw the ball
We Autistics can learn not to quit even when things don't start out well in new autism community initiatives/projects or when we start out our own career or other things in our own lives. Failure at the beginning does not necessarily mean complete failure. Your "fate" is not sealed so fast.
LESSON 2: TEAMWORK, COLLABORATION AND MUTUAL ENCOURAGEMENT
There are some players whose bowling ball went into the gutters more often than others. It would be easy and/or tempting to get upset that they lower the team scores.
Yet instead of getting upset, we encouraged them to press on, suggested certain changes they can make to the way they threw the bowling ball, and their scores got better (for some of the throws).
That is part of teamwork. Encourage others. Condemning them will merely pull down the team even more.
Some autism community initiatives/projects may sometimes have team members less competent than others. I too need to learn this lesson for I sometimes find myself getting upset at them.
Also beneficial to enjoy the process/journey, and add some humour along the way to keep the team morale up.
Strength in Unity, Weakness in Division. Another version of this is United We Stand, Divided We Fall
LESSON 3: FINDING YOUR "SWEET SPOT" or "NICHE"
Some of us found that a certain bowling ball, of a certain weight and holes sizes (the holes where you put your fingers in to roll the ball), was the ball that "gels" well with our hands because we get better scores with that bowling ball but not with other bowling balls (perhaps others are too heavy or too light, and/or the holes are too big or too small for our fingers). Each of us who discovered what bowling ball "gels" well with our hands, and the method of throwing/rolling the bowling ball, and kept repeating it. That is our "sweet spot".
In life, perhaps each of us have perhaps have a "sweet spot" or a niche where we excel in, given certain circumstances and other factors.
A) For some, it could be that job role/position where we excel in and contribute with our strengths which is appreciated by our company in spite of (or even because of) our autism.. and even better for those autistics who discovered that they actually enjoy the job.
B) For some, this could mean finding particular strengths or passions that can be used in one's own life and/or in the autism community constantyl further the autism cause, or to constantly improve the quality of life for oneself and the community
C) For some, it could mean discovering a talent or savant skill which gets translated into something productive which can be leveraged upon, from art to music to mathematics and whatever else it may be.
(Don't worry if you don't find a savant skill, you are probably just among the 95% of autistics. Many of us have strengths, even talents, but only around 5% have savant skills)
(Examples listed above are NOT exhaustive)
For some of us, finding that bowling ball that "gels" well with our hands, and the method to throw the ball, took a long time to find. Many many tries to find it.
In life, like in bowling, Some of us find that discovering that "sweet spot" of ours could be a long process, even up to years or decades. It is part of the journey. I myself have been struggling for a long time, still having not discovered my "sweet spot".
But let things unfold, don't pre-maturely conclude that you don't have a sweet spot. The few stories we hear of autistics who excel greatly in their job after finding that "sweet spot", took a long time to find. A lot of them went through job challenges, job switching, getting fired etc., to finally be able to find their "sweet spot".
Note: to read about those success stories of autistics in their career, borrow/buy the book "Different Not Less", stories compiled by Dr Temple Grandin, where these autistics tell their stories in a first person perspective. Book is available at some branches National Library Board (NLB) for borrowing. You may visit any NLB library and enquire from the customer service or check the library catalogue.
LESSON 4: ADJUSTING AND ADAPTING / MODIFYING YOUR STRATEGY
A lot of trial and error involved. We had to tey different bowling balls to find the one that "gels" with our hands, and modify the way we threw the ball.
Life is like that sometimes. In any project we embark on, or career, or whatever it may be, we need to trial and error to find the right combination.
Keep tweaking, modifying etc., you might find it one day. Even if it takes years.
LESSON 5: THE PROCESS WILL HAVE UPS AND DOWNS
Even after we found our "sweet spot", our bowling scores did detoriate at times. Again, we did NOT quit or give up.
Progress is not always an uphill road 100% of the time. There are downs along the way.
Think about it: how long did it take LKY to build Singapore? Many many years isn't it?
How long did it take for successful companies (be it corporate driven or charity) to be where they are today?
LESSON 6: CELEBRATE OTHERS' SUCCESSES
Within our team (I.e. the people in our lanes), we celebrated successes such as when any of us get a Spare or Strike.
It keeps the team morale up.
When the winning teams were announced, everyone rejoiced with them.
Your success is my success and our success. Each individual's success furthers the Cause and Advocacy for the wider Autism Community
That is the community spirit we should have. Build each other up. Celebrate the successes of other autistics.
"It takes a Village", it takes many like-minded people who complementing talents and strengths to further our cause. So celebrate the successes and strengths of other autistics... if they do better than us or have certain strengths/talents that surpasses ours, no need to feel inferior or "threatened'.. on the contrary, all the more we have bigger reason to celebrate them! Aren't these the people we NEED to COLLABORATE with, and whose strengths we need to tap into, in order to further our common cause?
LESSON 7: LEADERSHIP TEAM NEEDS BOTH TASK-ORIENTED LEADERS AND PEOPLE-ORIENTED LEADERS
We needed people who can coach us on how to bowl better. We also needed people to keep up the team morale with constant encouragement.
There are two types of leadera TASK Oriented leaders and PEOPLE Oriented leaders.
A leadership team consisting of solely the former gets the job done and keeps projects progress in check, but at the expense of team morale & welfare. The latter keeps team morale and bond strong, but at the expense of progress of the project.
It is rare to find leaders who can be equally good at both. The secret is to have a team of leaders where some are TASK Oriented and others are PEOPLE Oriented.
Through leading some of the autistic-led initiatives I have co-led, I find myself Task oriented but I discovered I am very poor at being People Oriented.
I have not found any other Autistic co-leaders as of yet, who are skilled at being People Oriented. I hope to find one some day.
SUMMARY / CLOSING THOUGHTS
1. "Success is NOT Final. Failure is NOT Fatal. It is the Courage to Continue that counts" (Sir Winston Churchill)
2. The journey of autistics, in our own lives and in our collective community initiatives, are bound to have detours.. perhaps some of us (like me) have gone through many detours in life. Frustrating as they may be, enjoy the sceneries you see, and pick up life lessons you can learn which you otherwise would not have if you didn't take the detour.
- Along life roads, (like on the roads we drive in our cars), when we take a wrong turn and end up in a detour, there are still ways we can get back on alternative roads that lead us to where we want to go
3. Success is a Journey, not a Destination
4. It is when you travel together with like-minded people that we travel the furthest