All periods of upheaval in the world offer legitimate opportunities for personal and business growth. But tough times also offer serious threats and real danger and stress. Change requires that we tap into strengths we never knew we had and unpack skills we never knew we needed. Facing the specter of these tough times requires some grit and some gumption, some genius and some grace. When you feel intimidated, overwhelmed and deflated, just go take a look. It might be more doable and joyful than you think.
I first set my crampon-clad foot on a frozen waterfall almost four decades ago. As a diffident, poorly focused young adult, the sport helped me find my manhood. The deep well of self-confidence and focus I found on the fragile and brittle world of ice pillars have served me in all aspects of my life. And whenever I'm on the verge of cracking in the horizontal world, those same affects are amplified in the vertical.
This past year has been a tough climb for all of us and I've had my challenges navigating a world almost none of us have ever faced. It's been grueling at times and grimly rewarding to navigate the obstacles. I've discovered some things about myself I never really appreciated before, some new strengths and some persistent weaknesses, like a poorly bonded snowpack about to avalanche.
My long-time mountain guide and friend recently proposed we take a crack at my long-time nemesis, an ice climb on Mount Stanley appropriately called "Nemesis". When I was coming up, as a young climber, this was the most fearsome route in the range–requiring months for its first ascensionist Bugs McKeith to overcome. He nearly succumbed. I've never done the route: I have the hands and feet for it but not the head. One mention of it and I go to a very deep and dark place. When Patrick suggested it for our project a few weeks ago, I shrugged it off and developed a very compelling story for why it was a poor choice. I was convinced. He was not.
Having demurred under the weight of my self-doubt and fear, we went to a cragging area to feel the pump on some overhanging, fractured pillars. That morning when I looked in Patrick's eyes, it was obvious that he was not going to support my "narrative of disability". I wasn't going to be talking my way out of shit that day, so I never bothered.
Patrick has a useful philosophy for confronting scary ventures he likes to call, "taking a look". His guidance was simple: get up close and personal to the base of the pillar and take a look; decide then when you know what the risks and difficulties really are. Then climb into the cave below the really steep bit and take a look. Then climb right under the overhang and take a look. Then go to the top and take a look. The view was amazing. With my nose right in the ice, I saw the places to rest my arms and legs, all the features invisible from a distance.
I have a habit of judging things from a far and then finding reasons not to even try doing them. I wonder how many opportunities I've missed following this strategy. Too many to count. Too many to admit. My real nemesis is between my two ears. I've been feeling overwhelmed and a little depressed this last few months. Isolation, boredom and uncertainty are taking their toll. But the next morning I got up and opened my schedule for the day and took a look. I finished my first coaching session of the day feeling refreshed and strong and then took a look at who I had next. I took that bright, joyous energy into the next one and the next one after that.
Take a close look at the things that scare you. It's easier to see the cracks in fear's facade.