can you handle it?
A difficult situation is not fun. It makes us rather uncomfortable and queasy. The severity of the situation compounds this effect. The situation asks a question of us.
Can you handle it?
Life is full of such events and situations. Most of us think we want to avoid them, and would think it a successful year if we did not have any difficult situations at all. I mean, wouldn't it be wonderful to not be stressed, to not have to ask a difficult question out of ourself, with real and significant failure staring us in the eye?
No. It wouldn't. Because then, we will never find out what we are capable of.
Like failures, a difficult situation or an obstacle in your path has made you level up. It has made you find inner resources you previously had not accessed and made out of you a bigger and better person.
but what if things go wrong?
That's always the question though. When faced with the unknown, when faced with the real prospect of things going wrong, it sometimes scares us. Especially when we have something real on the line. If we lose, we might be in the soup.
Our current situation in the pandemic, for example. Our jobs and our livelihoods have been affected. Through no fault of ours, we might be facing a whole host of difficult choices. And in fact, many things might not even be in our hands.
It can be scary to deal with the unknown. It can be scary to ask ourselves the question - what are you made of?
But that's where we grow.
As a kid, I would actively avoid these uncomfortable situations. I changed the game of school to suit me. Studying too much and trying to get the 1st rank was too much work and scared me (what if I worked hard and I didn't get that rank? and what if I missed out on all the fun things if I did get that rank?) and so I changed the game to suit me. I don't think that was wrong, nor was it right. It was what I knew back then.
It was not until I found the sandbox of fitness that I was able to really push myself out of my comfort zone. Running every week and trying to hit a distance that I had never previously run in my life was pushing me to my limits - mentally and physically. Would I be able to do this? Only one way to find out. While grad school had helped me push my boundaries, it was only my fitness endeavours that really pushed my limits. Until then, I would always back down and stick with my comfort zones.
There's a wonderful scene in Gattaca between the ordinary brother and the genetically-enhanced brother. Obviously, the latter keeps besting the former throughout their lives. Until the final swim.
Conquering each long run made me mentally resilient and capable of facing up to these challenges. Until then, I did not realise I had stayed in a comfort zone, even when I did do some cool things.
The gym, likewise, was a safe place to push my limits. Obstacles were easy. Obstacles happened near-daily for me. Every day was something where I faced an obstacle that I knew I could not complete. From not being able to last a single warm-up session to not being able to complete a workout, these were daily events for me.
So, while there was a physical transformation, I underwent a rather more significant mental transformation. In the sandbox of my gym, which is infinitely less scary than the real world.
But the lessons learned there, the capacity to push myself, the capacity to face up to an obstacle - irrespective of success or failure - was learned at the gym.
Like most people, I do not like being in a situation that I am helpless in. At least, when we have some control in the outcome, we can try and do something about it.
The current pandemic, for example. I have no control over when things will get alright, when the vaccine comes out, if the vaccine is even a relevant thing, if the government will do the right thing, if other people will do the right thing and so on.
Our company, The Quad, has obviously taken a hit during this time as we are a physical fitness company. But the situation has given us an interesting opportunity to explore virtual coaching at a different scale and in adapting our coaching methods given the constraints. Rather than feel out of control, we've embraced the constraints and have come up with a few interesting and fun ideas during this time.
Another place we've answered similarly is the question of re-opening. Do we do what is easy, which is re-open (the government has okayed it) and make up the revenue lost or whatever? Or do we do the right thing, which is not re-open because the numbers and trends all indicate that the month of September in Madras is going to be the worst - the right thing could mean even more drop in revenue and all that.
It was difficult. But a simple decision. The right thing to do here is to not re-open. The Quad Squad is healthier and fitter than the average person, and we are not in any danger of being affected. But this is not about us. It is about community spread and doing our bit to not allow the spread to happen. This is not about me thinking about myself alone but the larger picture.
And once that clarity was there, it was not a question of revenue or money. But the larger goal - do what is right for the community. The folks who train with us. And the folks who live in the city, folks who might come into incidental contact with us or our students.
It is scary, to be honest. To do the right thing here. What if it bites us in the ass? What if revenue drops even more? What if....
But doesn't change what the right thing to do is. So, do the right thing.
And I would not be able to make choices and decisions if not for my sandbox. If I had not pushed myself to see what I am capable of. It has armed me with enough confidence and balls to face up to difficult situations. The outcome is obviously not a given, and things could go totally terribly. But what is under my control is how I can face up to it, and whether I face up to it.
Likewise, I think a lot of the people I work with have learned enough from being out of their comfort zone that while the situation scares us all, we know what we need to do.
I guess there's a point to this. Like most things, we cannot attempt to get good at something, even being out of our comfort zone, or conquering an obstacle without practice. And it is scary to practice in real life.
So, find your sandbox. Practice there. In all probability, you've done this already. Mine the lessons you've already learned. Maybe you just have not thought about it the same way.
And apply them when you are faced with an obstacle. It will serve you well!