“You want us to do what?” That was the question running through my mind at a recent Leadership Richardson retreat where a challenge course put my fate into other people’s hands – literally. Time and again, moments in life have made me scratch my head and take a step back so that I could determine how to change paths, find a solution and move forward. But, after surviving this course, new doorways have opened in my mind, spirit, work, friendships and family life. A whole new energy has been born in me to keep challenging myself for change – change that will help me better serve others and engage more deeply in living, loving and leading.
So, what exactly happened at this retreat? More than I could’ve imagined. Being a part of this leadership program is a commitment not for the faint of heart, a true privilege and honor for which I’m deeply grateful. Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many great leaders and had a preconceived notion that a degree of ego might be present at this retreat where I was among peers with whom I’d typically don a suit or business attire, wear my game face and appear confident. But all that flew out the window when 35 strangers were divided into teams and assigned to lift and carry each other through tight spaces, scale walls using each other as human ladders, and climb poles and wires high above the ground, all while carefully guiding and encouraging each other to push through our fears. And when I say lift and carry, I mean grabbing and holding body parts covered in sweat to ensure safety and success occurred at all costs. As if we were on a military mission, no man or woman was left behind.
Pushing through your fears in front of others has a way of taking you to your pure self, stripping down all veils of vanity, ego and pride. In the great author and speaker Brene Brown’s book “Daring Greatly”, she talks about wholehearted living and the power and courage of vulnerability – all of which transforms us when we allow ourselves to trust ourselves and others to make the seemingly impossible possible. When we are challenged, leaning on others for a collective purpose wins every time, even when we so-called fail. When I reflect on the challenge course, Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “Citizenship in a Republic,” which was the inspiration for Brown’s book title, comes to mind. I feel the words leaping off the pages and into my psyche. We were “the men and women in the arena,” and will continue to be as our journey together progresses. Here’s the excerpt:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
Who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly….”
After surviving the challenge course, I sat resting, hydrating and observing the after effects of our feats. With tired bodies, relieved from the hours-long grip of life-saving harnesses, I looked around at these people who only hours earlier were sizing each other up, wondering who they’d be paired with, uncertain of the certain discomfort ahead. Each face, each smile, every recollection from the day’s experience now belonged uniquely to us, a band of brothers and sisters, comrades for life, ready to uncover new possibilities to make ourselves and community stronger.
What has been poured into me, I want to share with you. For all of you out there longing to feel “unstuck” in areas of your life, stop thinking, wishing and hoping. That is literally insane – repeating the same actions and expecting different results. Start with small steps. Do something a little different each day that makes you uncomfortable. Prove to yourself you are more than your circumstances. Open yourself to vulnerability. Ask others to hold you accountable to change, one action at a time. Your courage will increase, your life will positively progress, new friendships and opportunities will reveal themselves when you “step into the arena.” Each of us is worthy. Practicing what I preach has been my greatest teaching about Loving On Me.
What are you going to do to challenge yourself for a difference-making change? Whatever it is, get ready to be uncomfortable. All of “us” will be out there ready to join you in taking your life to the next level!