Friday, August 22, 2014

Got 99 Problems and Fear Ain't One

So sue me for using bad grammar. We got more serious problems and today grammar ain't one! Just kidding in my last post for the week.

Yesterday I was minding my own business cleaning out my e-mail box when I was interrupted by a random thought of Pamper Poles. You know the death defying exercise of climbing up a free-standing 60-foot pole, balancing on its 10-inch diameter top with both feet, and then jumping into mid air to catch a trapeze - all to prove the mantra "Yes I Can!"? Yeah those poles.

Why in the world would I be thinking about that? You ask. I asked myself the same question. Then I recalled my amazing experience many years ago when I took the Pamper Pole challenge and won. I came away from the experience seeing, hearing, feeling, and knowing that absolutely anything is possible for me. There is a significant difference between knowing something in your head (we all know that right?) and living it in your body.

That wasn't the first time I had gone to extraordinary lengths for a powerful breakthrough and I continue to seek out ways to make myself mentally tougher. Today fear is my queue to take action. When I'm afraid of something, I walk towards it. I was my parents' worst nightmare as a child because even then I had a similar tendency, but it serves me well as an adult. I'm sure my Coach would be proud to hear that ;-)

Then it hit me why the thought came to me at that moment. It came to remind me that risk can be scary, but success lies in taking the next step. For instance, climbing the Pamper Pole brought me face to face with limitations - my own and those of others around me. Some made it half way up and couldn't go further. Others couldn't do it at all. When it was my turn, I remember thinking "don't break your nails." That might sound silly, but I had just manicured my nails the night before (I know - not the greatest timing) and I didn't want to do it over. I didn't voice my concern out loud, but someone next to me said "remember - what you focus on you will get".

I harnessed up for my turn and fear immediately gripped me in the gut and my knees began to shake. I wasn't about to back out so I steeled my nerves like I had done many times before in the military where climbing to high places was part of my job. It wasn't the same because I was in a bucket or a lift - not nearly as scary as climbing up a free-standing pole that's swaying in the wind with a thunderstorm approaching. I stepped up to the Pamper Pole with encouragement being shouted at me from all around. "You can do it!" They said. I knew I could climb, but it was what happens after I got to the top that I was ruminating about.

Remember - what you focus on you will get

Pamper Pole Ground Team (2006)

I climbed at a steady pace and didn't look down. So far so good. Then I noticed that the higher up the pole I got the more it shook and swayed. I now knew why others didn't make it all the way up. I slowed down in an attempt to stop the pole from swaying. It worked until I started moving again. Deep breath - keep going, I thought. Finally I made it to the top. From the top any movement created a major vibration so I hugged the top of the pole and held on until the movement stopped. This wasn't the tough part and I was only at the top of the pole! My goal was to stand erect with both feet planted on a 10-inch diameter surface and then jump to grab a trapeze in mid-air before coming back to earth.

Oh ----, how am I going to stand up when the pole sways every time I move? I decided to enjoy the view from the top. I held on and looked around knowing that I wouldn't see that view under those circumstances ever again so I took it all in. By the time I was done viewing my surroundings, I could hear the people on the ground yelling up at me to keep going. I was still trying to figure out how to get my two feet - which were slightly longer than the diameter of the pole - on top of the pole and stand upright before jumping. Going back down after coming this far up wasn't an option so I had to go up. Enough thinking - just do it!, I thought.

I struggled to stand up with the pole swinging and made a not-so-elegant move for the top, trying to hold on to the base and get my feet on the top at the same time. It didn't work because there wasn't enough room! Either you can hold onto the pole or you have to stand up. I finally stood up ever so briefly before jumping towards the trapeze. Victory!

It wasn't until I was back on the ground that I realized I had broken a nail. Why is that significant? It reinforced the words that someone had said to me right before my climb - "remember - what you focus on you will get". My focus before I began my climb had been "don't break your nails!" - and that's exactly what happened. I broke a nail. Talk about situational reinforcement!

Pamper Poles and Leadership

Leadership is inherently risky. If you're a leader, then you must take the next step. From the vantage point of my Pamper Pole experiences, here are the leadership lessons that I've written on the wall:

Leadership is much broader than corporate results though those results matter immensely. Leadership is about moving forward even when everything is shaking. Once you've decided that going backwards is not an option, stand up and jump!

Got 99 problems? Don't let fear be one! Simply take the next step.

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