I recently had the pleasure of teaching 13 Brownies how to sew a button onto a piece of felt. They also learned how to sew their badges onto their Girl Scout sashes, complete with knots and whip stitching.

This lesson is part of a journey that my fourth graders are learning to “fly up” and transition from Brownies to Junior Girl Scouts. As part of the many ceremonial requirements, they all had to be taught a skill from an “older” Girl Scout. Hence me finding my sewing kit.

Computer coding 101 has come a long way in 35 years.
Computer coding 101 has come a long way in 35 years.

As part of their lesson, I shared my sash from when I was a Junior — yes, it was quite dusty, and, yes, I did keep it in my memory box full of treasures. While I was reviewing the patches I earned as a kid, I found one for computer coding.

Unbelievably, more than 35 years ago I earned a badge in computer coding. I remember going to a big building. The job of the computer was to punch some kind of time card to calculate hours. The servers required for this simple task took up the equivalent of eight parking spaces, and they were really slow and noisy.

I’m sharing this because some skills we’ve learned and forgotten. Other skills we thought would never come in our size. A lot of the skills and roles we are reliant on today weren’t even real jobs three decades ago.

I certainly have found that to be true in my personal newspaper and digital career: The more skills and variety the better. The more I am willing to learn and raise my hand, the more passionate I become about my vocation. If I am to lead engagement for our newspapers at Cox Media Group, I darn well had better be engaged myself.

Ideally, we teach our kids to take risks, to believe in themselves, to reach for the stars.

When was the last time you reached for the stars at your media company? When was the last time you lifted your head up amidst all the challenges, organised chaos, and tough decisions to joyfully learn something new?

The era of digital marketing requires we all learn new things all the time — that we be brave and fail gracefully or sometimes fall flat on our faces. Engagement requires that we become part of the newsroom team, learn about agile development, and figure out the actual discipline of product management and audience building.

While we are making strides with engaging our customers and audiences at CMG, we certainly have more to learn, more data to gather, and more insights to develop.

I read recently James M. Cox, our founder and a former governor of Ohio, had many skills and trades before buying his first newspaper in 1898. Prior to the investment in what is now known as the Dayton Daily News, Governor Cox worked as a tutor, janitor, newsboy, printer’s apprentice, and school teacher. A man of many talents, indeed.

I like to take on most new challenges and now I am asking you to challenge yourself. Newspapers are vital to our democracy, freedoms, and future. Digital may only be one of the many pathways ahead, and I challenge us all to find a new and inspiring way to lead.

Learning new skills is very rewarding — something even as small as sewing a button onto a piece of felt.