The thing I love and hate at the same time with any kind of transition or learning a new skill is feeling like an abject beginner in life all over again. The three C’s Chaos, Crisis and Confusion.
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever embarked on learning something new and felt clumsy and mechanical and like you just have no idea what you are doing or where you are going? Are you wanting to make a transition now and that fear is stopping you?
I remember a time when I first learnt to kitesurf. I had just learnt to control the kite in the air and now it was time to go into the water. Flying a kite on land and in the middle of Botany Bay in deep water are two completely different things. Fundamentally it is flying a kite but not only did everything look different but add the perceived fear of being eaten by a bull shark or drowning into the lesson and suddenly I felt anxious, uncertain and quite literally out of my depth.
The result of these two additional elements to a skill I was just starting to get comfortable with? I got tea bagged relentlessly for two hours across Botany Bay. I felt like I was going to drown on several occasions and I swear I was lifted 10m in the air (probably was only 2) at least a couple of times and unceremoniously dumped back into the water. All the time having my instructor giving me feedback as to what I needed to do through a headphone in my helmet. (At the time, the last thing I thought I needed). I think I invented a couple of new swear words that afternoon which I probably could never repeat again!
However, I persisted with the tea baggings and the near drowning experiences for a few more lessons and I ended up figuring it out. It just clicked, and I was off and riding. 5 Years later I now surf in 4-8 foot waves with my kite and people stand in awe on the beach as I make my way down the coast line with my fellow kiting buddies carving off lips of waves and being absorbed in the moment, kite flicking through the air like a seagull going after a hot chip.
Undoubtedly on most occasions when we arrive at the other end a curious beach goer will come over and ask if it’s hard to do, because it looks hard to do! In which my response is, “nah it only take a couple of lessons.”
Uncertainty, fear and doubt are scary emotions, and quite frankly emotions none of us like to feel. What I have learnt through many experiences in my life is that these emotions are the path to liberation. They are an inevitable part of learning and they are an inevitable part of moving forward with anything that is worthwhile and any venture that calls you toward becoming a better and more fulfilled person.
We have been trained from a very early age as we go through school that we need to know the answers. We are rewarded if we know the answers and therefore, we associate knowing the answers with being a good person and not knowing the answers as a person who needs to do more and achieve more. We are trained to be comfortable with knowing and uncomfortable with uncertainty. In fact many of us feel anxious if we don’t know the answer.
This same belief is then reflected in our work life when we are rewarded for knowing how to do something and penalised for trying new things and failing. The net result is that we have created a natural state where we are ‘addicted’ to knowing! We are paid to know the answers and therefore the more we know the more we get paid, the better we feel.
The big question I ask myself though is this: “If knowing the answers is as rewarding as it appears to be, why are there so many unfulfilled people in the world?”
I often reflect and think what I would have missed out on if I had given into my desire to stop being tea bagged when I was learning to kitesurf because it was uncomfortable and confusing.
I feel that same way right now with my career as I go through a significant transition.
There was a time when I used to feel I was the master of my domain, I could close a $15million deal without even giving it a second thought. I would post an article on linked in and 1,000 people would read it and comment, I could take on the giants of the Enterprise IT Industry and win. I knew the answers, I was in control and I had mastery.
An unfortunate turn of events in my life meant I had to change direction away from a domain I had spent 25 years mastering. Unlike a majority of people, my choice for a change of career was not by choice or some inner calling but by circumstance and a need to re-create my career because there was no option to return to the Enterprise IT space.
At present, there are days where I just feel completely confused and can’t put two thoughts together that provide any kind of clarity. I am just tea bagged all over the place with my thoughts and ideas. It’s frustrating, confusing and uncertain.
While I am still innovating and applying technology to solve problems the landscape I have chosen to be in looks different and I am in deep water sometimes feeling like I am drowning.
I believe like my kitesurfing experience that if I remain willing to sit in the confusion and uncertainty of change and learning and persevere where others give up I will ultimately be rewarded in spades for that perseverance.
I have learned that there is no magic formula for success, or to be an entrepreneur or to be successful in any endeavour. There is only perseverance and a willingness to sit with emotions that a majority of people have been conditioned to run from, causes them anxiety and are unwilling to sit with.
I believe our path to deep fulfilment with our work and our lives is to make friends with these emotions and to welcome them. To learn to sit with them and trust that it is part of the process and that failure on the path to success is inevitable providing you are willing to persevere and continue to be tea bagged until it clicks.
I can’t imagine what my life would be like right now without kitesurfing at least a couple of times a week. The sport has given me so much and is now my meditation activity and my outlet from the stresses and rigour of life. It is also where I go when I have to make a decision because it provides clarity. (That’s another blog post in itself, stay tuned)
I know as I gain confidence and mastery with my new career direction of becoming and developing into a thought leader while feeling like I am being tea bagged all over the place right now there will be that moment of clarity and mastery, where life will never be the same again.
What do you want to do right now where Chaos, Crisis and Confusion are holding you back from?
Create, Innovate, Collaborate!