I watched a young woman cry her eyes out because she felt like a failure.
This past Monday, I spent part of my morning doing a "challenge" activity at a ranch in Tucson's Santa Catalina Mountains. For this challenge activity, I and the others in my group had to climb to the top of a 25-foot telephone pole. Once we got to the top of it, we had to step off of it into the air.
Don't worry... We wouldn't plummet to the ground. We each wore a harness that would allow us float to the ground slowly. The point of the exercise was to test our fearlessness. But we were all confused about what exactly was the scary part in the exercise. See... It turned out that the "stepping off into the air" would be the easy part.
The hardest part was the climb to the top of the pole. And once you got past the ladder going half way up, then made it up the foot staples to the top... You would find your hands resting on a wobbly flat 12-inch disk. You had to somehow get your feet on the disk and stand up.
Before the first person strapped into the harness and began climbing, we all plotted out how we would transition from balancing on our hands to standing up on our feet. But when that first person started to climb, we saw that all of our plotting and planning would be pointless. It took her 10 minutes to get to the top.
Every person after that did it a little more quickly than the previous person. I was told I had to go last because I wanted to go first.
"If you normally go first to do things, you need to go last," the instructor told us. "If you normally like to sit back and go last, you are going in the first few attempts."
This frustrated me. I like to get things over with right away. That is why I always go first. But it was a nice test of my patience to watch every other person climb that pole and take their time getting up it. They would each pause for a few minutes while they tried to figure out how to maneuver themselves up on the disk.
"Just do it," shouted the instructor. "Don't think. Just do it. Get your foot on the disk and stand up! Use your legs!"
(I felt like I was in a Bikram class at this point. Perhaps right in the middle of Standing Bow.)
By the time my turn rolled around, I had to do it quickly. We were running out of time. So I ran up that pole in less than a minute. And when it came to getting up on the disk, I just did it. I stuck my right foot next to my hands on the disk, and I pushed myself up to a standing position. I didn't think. I just did it. I trusted my body completely. And I knew if I slipped, I would just fall into the air. Safely harnessed.
No fear. What was there to fear?
There were nine of us in the activity class. All of us made it up the pole. All of us got both our hands and one foot on the disk. All of us made an attempt to stand up on the disk. Eight of us were able to actually stand up on it. One person fell.
She was a younger woman. Before the class, she had told us how she had done almost all the other challenge activities they had as the resort. Flying through the air attached to wires... Walking a tight rope... Scampering across a log 30-feet up... All the hikes that were offered... She was a wonderful and inspiring ball of energy for the rest of us. And she was cheering the loudest as each of us went up that pole.
We did the same for her when she climbed. And she fell backwards when she tried to stand up on the disk. It was a beautiful attempt. She just lost her balance. Perhaps she let her fear get the best of her... Maybe? We cheered her on, because it was tough getting to the top of that pole.
But at the end of the class, after I finished my run, we collected ourselves into a circle and discussed what we thought of the event. We went one-by-one saying what we felt. When it came to her turn though, she sniffed and waved her hands. I realized she was crying.
She wasn't just crying. She was doing a "devastated" type of crying. And I understood why. We all did. She had so much confidence before climbing up that pole. But she lost it as she was climbing. She thought too much.
As we all get ready to embark on this momentous 101-day challenge, this advice may work for you as well as I believe it will work for me...
"Don't think. Just show up, listen and do. Thinking is not required."