I’ve seen a lot of posts lately about the need for public relations professionals to be curious and stay informed in order to succeed in their careers. But how do you cultivate curiosity? One way I do this is by trying new things. In recent years, this has included Spanish, English horse riding, triathlons, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, knitting, and crocheting. Earlier this month, I learned how to shoot a handgun.
A disclaimer: This post isn’t about politics or gun rights but about trying something new and keeping your mind open – so please proceed, but with an open mind!
I’m not a gun person. Until this month, I had never touched one nor seen one in person. I’ve never had a desire to do either. I often disagree with the positions taken by the National Rifle Association (NRA), but I don’t actively campaign or speak out against them or the organization. This last Christmas, I received an 8-hour handgun class, including time on a firing range. It was one of the most surprising gifts I’ve ever received, but I kept an open mind and accepted it and scheduled the class.
When it came time for the class, I was nervous. Here I was in a room with people who were experienced “shooters” and gun owners. There was talk of the Second Amendment and gun owners’ rights. NRA membership applications were sent around. And there were guns in the room!
Thankfully, I was distracted by the instructor’s admonition to take notes. There was going to be a written exam! (I wasn’t prepared for this. I was there to shoot a gun, not take a test.) I’m competitive when it comes to tests, so I buckled down and tried to absorb as much as I possibly could. After missing 11 answers (you can miss up to 15), I was provided a 9 MM semiautomatic handgun, 50 cartridges and some paper targets – one of which was another test. The firing range experience itself was unreal. It was scary, exhilarating and nerve-wracking.
I’ve never understood the desire or interest in owning a gun and I’ve never seen myself as a potential card-carrying member of the NRA (and still don’t). But after learning about what goes into selecting a gun, holstering it and the legal considerations for carrying a concealed gun, I have a better appreciation for gun owners, for guns themselves and certainly for those who shoot competitively.
After I downed the margarita I needed after the class, I had time to think about what all this has to do with PR. There was a time when I had never written a communications plan or knew what it meant to consult a client. There was a time when I didn’t know the science and technology that distinguished a dump from a landfill, and I was nervous at the thought of “touring the landfill” (one of the things I did in a previous job was provide such tours to school and community groups).
As public relations professionals, we often are required to be generalists – we know a little about a lot of different things (and sometimes you get to know a lot about something you never imagined!). Trying and learning new things, whether it’s in my 9 to 5 career or in my personal life, keeps me open to opportunities to which I might have previously said no.
Oh, I did pass the shooting test and received a certificate that allows me to obtain a permit to carry a concealed handgun. Talk about a surprise!
What new thing have you tried lately?