Yesterday I spent the day with some girlfriends at Edmonton’s new aerial park. It’s is the first in Canada, I might add. A lot of thoughts went through my mind before I was actually going to go.
First, I thought about whether or not I actually should go, whether or not I had the time to spare… I thought about all the work I had to do, and how many things I committed… I thought about how I really ought to use the time to get stuff done. By the time 11.30 that morning, I had already taught a fitness class, completed a mastermind call, a conference call, and finished some urgent work for my client. Man. I was stressed the eff out. In addition to the guilt about leaving my work, I also loaded on the mom-guilt about how I could better use the time to spend with my baby on a precious weekend. Nevertheless, I dragged my ass to the car and headed out to the aerial park.
I arrived. One more conference call. I wandered the valley, frantically searching for the aerial park with a phone glued to my ear. Half trying to pay attention to what was going on with the data migration that was chugging along that weekend; half trying not to walk into a tree.
I found my friends. The next 3 hours was easily the most fun I had in years! The aerial park turned out to be unbelievably amazing! It was a collection of American Ninja Warrior style activities suspended one, two, and three stories off the ground. From the third storey obstacles, we were higher than the treetops.
The obstacles were ranked like ski runs: Green (easy), Blue (intermediate), and Blank (advanced.) From the ground it looked like nothing. I’ve been weight training for in excess of 15 years. I knew I could rely on my fitness, my balance, and my proprioception. I was confident.
Then it was my turn. I reached for the rope, which turned out to be further than I expected. Yikes! I looked down, and even though I was only one storey up, the ground suddenly seemed a long ways down. My heart started racing. Panic set in. I gulped, turned back, and exclaimed, “Dude! This is intense!” Ok. Now or never. I grabbed the rope and stepped out on the obstacle. I muscled it to the other side.
The next few obstacles got progressively easier. I had to really focus though. By the end of the second hour, I was both physically and mentally drained. There was so much ninja splendour, I was overwhelmed. I was parched. Yet I pushed on. This is the definition of tenacity and persistence. Then I thought back to my business. In the last few weeks, I was working 50 – 60 hours a week. This was the very week that I pre-sold our first course contract. This meant that on top of my consulting deliverables, I had to produce that Oracle GL course to which we committed. This, on top of my weekly blogging, my two podcasts, teaching fitness, and spending QT with my family… well you get the picture.
The Learning Curve is Shorter than You Think
It was surprising how the first few obstacles took all of my focus. The next few quickly became easier. In the three hours that I dangled off ropes, clinging to my lifeline across suspended canoes, I thought how much parallel there was to the mindset of entrepreneurship. In fact, what I discovered that day applies to more than entrepreneurship. I applies to any endeavour in your life that challenges you mentally and physically.
Submit to the Process
In my most drained, thirsty moment of the afternoon, there was a tightrope that stretched across the entire park, two stories above the ground. This was the moment where I didn’t even think about how high I was. I didn’t think about how I might fall, or how I might miss the next step forward. I had nothing in my mind but putting my next foot forward. I stepped out onto the tightrope and went for it. I felt graceful, light, disciplined, as I moved slowly and methodically across the rope. The entire park went silent. All that existed was me and the rope.
But this couldn’t have happened before I went through the gruelling, scary first level obstacles. These were the obstacles where I clung to my lifeline. It was before I had developed the confidence to trust my balance and fitness.
See, the thing is, whatever new we tackle in life, whether it is health, business, a new baby, the first few attempts will suck. The first few diaper changes will be messy. The first fifty blog posts will stink. The first few clients will be cumbersome. The first time we do anything, it’s going to be a disaster. But these first few attempts are necessary if we want to grow out of the disaster state.
It’s a process. It always takes longer than you think. The first night you have with your baby at home is longer than you expect. Leaving your job takes longer than you think. Training for your first 10k run takes longer and is more gruelling than you planned. It’s the process. Without going through the process, you don’t get to come out the other side smelling like a rose. The more you resist the process, the longer it takes. What you resist persists. But there is a reason that you’re still in the process. There always is. Maybe it’s that there is still something you have to learn to prepare for something down the road. Maybe it’s a new opportunity hidden in the walls that you have to discover. Submit to the process. Embrace it. Be grateful for it, and you will expedite through it.
I’ve been weight training for 17 years. Seventeen years ago I had no idea that I would find myself on a three storey high aerial course with nothing but a 1” wire cable lifeline connecting me to the safety system.
I guess the message here is that you never know when opportunity knocks. Train so you can dance with opportunity when it comes your way.
Two Stories up is the same as Three Stories up
That same tightrope on the second storey was also on the third storey. Only this one was half the length. But what it lacked in length, it made up in height, which was the catch. Here is what I discovered.
It’s only when you look down that you can tell how far you can fall. Looking down from the third level is way scarier than looking down from the second level, even if it was the same tightrope obstacle. The key, instead, is to look up. When you look up, you don’t get to see how far you can fall. When you look up, you ignore the risk of falling. When you look up, it doesn’t matter how high up you are. You can be two stories up, three stories, even fifty stories up. It all looks the same.
The same can be said about our goals and the focus upon our goals. There is risk to everything. Looking down and seeing how far you can fall is like acknowledging all the ways you can fail and not reach your goal. But when you keep your eye on the pie in the sky, well, it’s all looks the same. It doesn’t much matter how high you are anymore. All that matters is you and your beacon.
I was unbelievably pooped that afternoon, both physically and mentally. I was so tired I couldn’t even offer intelligent conversation afterward. I just sat there in a trance. Yet despite the drain of energy, I was euphoric. I thought back to all of the crazy balancing and strength feats I did in the last three hours. I closed my eyes, smiled, and welcomed the warmth of the sunshine on my face.
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