How to Move Forward When You Can’t See the Path Ahead

 

the falls 1I just got back from three days off the grid, completely unplugged and fully immersed in the natural beauty at the Grand Canyon and Havasupai Falls. Clarity and inspiration were a given.

The business world is such a whirlwind. Some days you have extremely clear vision, tons of energy, and feel unstoppable. Other days? It can feel like you are in the middle of the Northern woods of Maine on a foggy day with no idea which way is out. You can feel trapped, confused, frustrated, and lost. It can paralyze you. The fear can stop you and cause you to shoot off your last rescue flair and call it quits. But this is where the magic happens. This is where you can either retreat, or find out what you’re made of. And you know what? Most of the time when we’re lost, we are only 10 feet from the edge of the forest. It’s when you can’t see where to go or what to do next that you must use all the courage, models, emotional fitness, and grit you possess to find a way out. Stop, re-calibrate, take a look around, and find a path through the trees (even if you have to create it).

falls 5I felt this fear and uncertainty about halfway through my expedition to Havasupai Falls. We had finally made it to the waterfall and were on the edge of one of the cliffs overlooking a huge pool below. The pool was super deep and only about 55 degrees. The wind was whipping at 25 mph due to the energy of the falls. The current below was incredibly strong. Our guide lead us out on to the cliff, tiptoeing on a 2 foot wide shelf so we were over the middle of the pool. The five of us, plus our guide, were huddled on this ledge about 8 feet away from the crashing falls and then shit got real. Our guide explained that we were going to dive into the pool and swim through a four foot underwater tunnel that would lead us into a huge cave. He reminds us to swim really hard because the current is strong. Our guide prepares to jump. To make it worse, he crouches down, takes 4-5 really deep breaths and then launches head first into the current at the base of the falls and disappears. I’m up next. As soon as he hits the water, we’re supposed to count down from 10 and jump. I get to 5… and think, is this guy f’ing kidding me, right now? I can’t see where I’m going. I have no idea what to expect. But I breathe deeply, remember his words, “Dive deep, swim hard, and you’ll be fine.” …1… I jump. The current is stronger than I thought it would be, the waterfall pushing me down, and then I hit a wall. Literally. I think, shit, I need to come up for air, but I don’t. I just go deeper and reach for the opening. I keep swimming. I keep moving. I push my way through the water and BOOM. I enter a magnificent cave – one of the hidden gems of the world. I made it.

We all made it. Each one of us had the same thoughts and feelings before we jumped, but we were strong enough to get out of our heads and find a way to move. One of the guys in my group even hit the wall, got turned around and just kept at it until he found the hole through the water. The look on his face when he made it through and into the cave was priceless. We all had that look. Overcoming fear, pushing your limits, and coming out the other side knowing what you are capable of, knowing you can accomplish something like that is an incredible feeling.

Little did we know that jumping off a cliff and swimming through an underwater tunnel was not the only way to get to the cave. We could have just swam right up to it on the west side of the falls. But I guarantee we wouldn’t have had the memories or the feeling of accomplishment that we did if we hadn’t tested our physical and emotional fitness. Our willingness to dive in and to keep moving without knowing exactly how to get there was the real gift. We learned a lot about ourselves and each other in that moment.

So, when you’re deep underwater or lost in the woods, what do you do? Do you freeze? Panic? Give up? Or do you take a step forward? Do you keep moving? Do you take action?

adam mountainYou are 20x more capable than you think you are. You must trust yourself and be confident in the fact that you can get through anything… if you keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Life and business are all about failures. Failures allow you to see what is working and what needs to be fixed or improved upon. And you won’t always know the answer. You won’t always see a clear path out. If success were easy, it would be as natural as breathing; we would all just be doing it.  But it’s that challenge of not knowing and moving forward anyway that forces us to grow.

How do you test your emotional fitness? When was the last time you pushed the limits of what you thought was possible for yourself?

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