OK, hands up. How many of you have reached further than you should have, and something bad happened? I mean, it does happen, right? You’re up on a chair or a stepstool or a ladder, cleaning a light, or cutting a branch off a tree, or painting the ceiling, and you just lean over a little too far, and lose your balance. You take a tumble and feel like an idiot that should have known better. So ‘fess up, friends. Did you do the same thing again, perhaps without the unfortunate ending to the story. My mother would be horrified by the number of times that I’m dangling like a circus monkey off my kitchen counters trying to get a basket out of the gap between the top of my cupboards and the ceiling. (sorry mom). This is what happens when Tall (read: Child) and his equally tall pals aren’t coming over on the regular anymore. More kitchen acrobatics.
But.. Without my circus antics, I wouldn’t have figured out that a well jabbed barbecue tong can get my basket for me. And I never fell doing *that* particular ill-advised antic. And learning is good right? Homo erectus wouldn’t have figured out how to use tools without some ill-advised antics. At least I’m not getting impaled on the tusk of a wooly mammoth if my basket remains un-gathered.
Child has just completed week 3 of 5 of the Canadian Forces Leadership and Recruit School boot camp. He calls us on Sunday nights when we’re gathered for Soup/BBQ so that we can all get the updates and he can get the updates from us. It’s kind of a nice system. Yesterday, he said that half of his platoon was sick, and he was coughing throughout the call. He sounds tired (which is one of those things you expect when your overlords are trying to test your mettle and keep your stress level elevated for 5 full weeks). He was talking about people yelling at them. He said, with wisdom beyond his 19 years, that he understands that the yelling is part of the training. They yell a bit, and then share great stories about their experiences. There’s time for yelling, for sure, but he gets that the people training him have a vested interest in his success. They’re not there to just be assholes to him. They’re there to teach him. When the yelly teaching is over, they’re good people. And the yelling is part of the process to help them learn how to deal with stress.
A friend who has served in the Canadian Military had given child the advice that the military doesn’t expect more from you than you’ve got to give, but they DO expect more than YOU think you’ve got. I’ve been thinking about that since he said that I’ve been thinking about how that advice applies more broadly. How many times have I looked at my responsibilities and felt overwhelmed? How many times did I tell someone that they could do a thing that they didn’t think that they had in them.
When I was young, I took dance lessons from a super-talented instructor who was as cranky as they come. He yelled at us all the time. He thought we could do more. He thought we could do better. He was always right, once we got over the yelling. I also attended the summer theatre school that he headed. We learned for a month, and then we staged a musical for 2 weeks, and then performed it for a week. During those 2 weeks of rehearsals, he yelled nonstop. It’s a wonder he never stroked out right in front of us. Every day, he’d call us all a bunch of wankers, which was all the more… rant-y… because of his English accent. He stormed around like we were disappointing him to his very core, but in the end, he got the very best out of all of us. More than we thought we had in us. And we rose to the occasion. Every. Single. Time.
When Connor was in about Atom level hockey, he stopped pushing himself. He’d say that he would give it his A during games, but practice was for conditioning. We asked him how he knew what he was capable of if he didn’t practice being there regularly. He’d roll his eyes. It was a good system. Eventually, once he did start pushing himself, he realized that mom and coach/dad weren’t as ridiculous as he’d first thought. Parenting achievement unlocked.
So yeah. Stretching outside your comfort zone is good. It feels like the Mysterious Beyond outside your comfort zone is kind of like Super Mario. Maybe bashing your head against the wall will get you a fun reward. Maybe notsomuch. Maybe you’ll fall into a chasm and have to start over. Maybe you’ll find a fun side-hustle. But you don’t know until you take that step ahead.
May the path out of your comfort zone be full of adventure, and may the scraped knees and bruised egos be fleeting.