A dozen years ago I found myself on a tight rope stretched 10 metres high above the Nevada desert, legs and arms and body wobbling dangerously. I was listening to my internal dialogue yelling “Holy Cow!” but telling me I would be okay; listening to others encourage me, feeling fear in the pit of my stomach – and I was laughing at the same time!
“Pauline, you asked for this!” I reminded myself under my breath. And I had! I was looking for a little excitement – something to stretch me.
I clutched at the dangling rope that was handed to me like life depended on it (even though I was wearing a harness attached to a wire above). And as I grabbed that rope I had to edge forward and let go of the one I was holding in my other hand, to pass it on to my team mate.
I would love to say I was brave and fearless. I wasn’t. But I didn’t buckle either. There were people way braver than me – instructors and participants. People passing me the rope, making sure I was okay, safe and moving forward. I was terrified but not to the point of not moving, and now, when people say “I’ve got your back” I really know now what that means and how that feels.
When I say “I found myself” I really mean I found myself. I was testing my limits – there was an instructor on another wire behind me and people ahead of and behind me. But I felt like it was all up to me – which it was. I had to move and pass the rope with care to the person behind me.
And I could have sat this one out and watched other people scrabbling around the high ropes course, but I couldn’t let myself and my team down.
I was so incredibly relieved to get to the end of the wire – and so proud of myself for doing it; and so heartily grateful to all the people who helped, encouraged and supported me.
You might guess that that was the beginning of testing my limits and it was; even though I don’t consider myself a thrill seeker, I like to find out what I’m capable of. I do the occasional “dangerous” thing – jump out of a plane, abseil, explore underground caverns. I like to make sure my heart’s still ticking.
Because nothing will sharpen your senses like fear!
What did I learn?
I learnt to trust myself and those around me. There are always people around me who have “got my back“.
I learnt to think about how I fit with what’s going on and to try to get beyond my own fear to help others. (This is still a work in progress – it’s pretty terrifying when all you can think of is “I might die!”.)
Above all, I learnt that if I can tackle scary things like this, I can handle pretty much anything that comes at me, in business and in life.
And so can you.