Living (and Working) on the Edge!

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

It was a very cold ski!  When we left the trailhead, it was not only in the lower single digits, but it was also starting to snow.  It would turn into a pretty significant and steady blizzard, for the remainder of the trip up to the mountain hut, for my son and I.  Arguably, I had gotten Ben over his head a bit — he was around 14 years old, and had never done anything quite like this.  It was not a hard ski for a regular “hut tripper”, but my boy was not nearly in as good of shape as I was, and he struggled.

I started taking his pack weight about halfway into the 3-mile climb.  At one point, I even tried to double pack — my increasingly heavy pack on my back, and his pack strapped across my chest.  This did not prove very tenable, so as we approached a half-mile from the hut, we decided to drop his pack off to the side, and come back for it in the morning.

Whether it’s emotional pain, physical exertion, mental challenges, once you go to the place of discomfort or even pain, you grow!

I was very proud of Ben that day!  He proved very tough, both mentally and physically.  He never complained, never whined.  To lessen any worry about survival, and to empower him, I stated the truth:  We were not going to die! We could stop at any point, build a snow cave, and be just fine — if not very comfortable, for the night.  But, we were very close, I assured him.  The choice was his to make.  Soon after that conversation, we spotted my friends coming back down from the hut to help out.  (As it was near dusk, we could see their headlamps as they skied down.)  Ben found another gear at that point, given the proof of our proximity to warmth and rest, and plowed ahead.

He recovered great.  The next two days, due to the blizzard and the location of the hut, we enjoyed some incredible, hip-deep powder turns.  Ben woke up the morning after the climb, and was raring to go!

As we sat there drinking coffee that first morning, he and I talked about the experience.  I shared a lesson with him, that I had learned the hard way many times during my adventures.  When you push yourself to your Edge, through hard work, desperation, etc., you learn something about yourself — you discover that it was not after all your Edge.  Once you reach your supposed limits, you find you can push past them, and become more than you conceived of yourself.  Whether it’s emotional pain, physical exertion, mental challenges, once you go to the place of discomfort or even pain, you grow!

Life lessons can affect our career choices.  And vice versa!

Like most life lessons, this is just as true for career growth.  Many people (most?) find the most value in getting themselves to a stable career position, and they just level off.  They are not pushed, and they don’t see the need to push themselves.  It is comfortable, if not particularly fulfilling.  The trouble with this, is not just that it leads to a dull job and career, but it also leaves you vulnerable.  The time may come when your job is at risk, often due to nothing in your control.  If you get laid off, you suddenly realize that you’ve let your skills age, and your value on the job market is not very good.

I once had a yoga instructor advise that our goal is to get to a place where we are “stable and comfortable”.  I could not disagree more!  Whenever I feel too comfortable, I make a conscious decision to push myself, into new skills, new opportunities, new (and risky) positions.  As Seth Grodin states many times in his blogs, being comfortable is dangerous. (Just one example  I recall one bit of advice from Seth, where he states that if we do not feel like an Impostor at least once per week, we are not doing our job.

We need to find our Edge in business, because we will realize that it is not our Edge after all.  Our limits are mostly a mental construct.  Pushing past them not only makes us stronger (in work and in life), but it increases our market value.