I can’t imagine living without challenges. When I have none, my life feels empty. I look for them. Why? Because I’ve learned that they are essential for my growth.
One other thing I’ve learned: the more successes that I’ve had, the more likely that I gain confidence that I can successfully meet the next challenge. The successes can be entirely unrelated.
I hope that you’ll allow me to tell a story that proves my point.
I was a shy boy entering college with no confidence. I did not even know how to date. I did know that I couldn’t remain like that. So I took a calendar and made a commitment: I would get a date, could be a study date or brief Coke date, every day and add an “x” on each date on the calendar and would NEVER miss a date, even if there was a last minute cancellation.
Further, I decided to go all the way: I would ask the the most attractive girls, making it even tougher. I even called girls that I had not met. Was that easy and painless? No, it wasn’t. It was challenging and painful.
I didn’t know how to act on a date. I was shy. And I had many failures. A fraternity brother even told me that one girl, Susan, did not want to see me again: “don’t bother calling her anymore”.
Well, eventually it worked. A mentor that I once had told me “your greatest weakness can become your greatest strength”. He was right. Once I got comfortable (even a blind pig can find an acorn occasionally), I kept putting x’s on the calendar. I kept dating and began only approaching the most attractive (to me) girls. Some days I had 3–5 little x’s on my calendar. Is that obsessive? I was fortunate that I didn’t flunk out of school!
Other guys began to make favorable comments to me. That made a young insecure guy feel better, gain some confidence.
I became interested in running for the position of Senator, a position where I would represent the thousands of students in a particular field at my university. I had to speak and compete to do this. I reflected on my earlier success dating. That helped: I knew I had overcome a lifelong shyness around the opposite sex. I won.
Then I decided that I might like climbing mountains. That was difficult mentally and physically plus it was dangerous. I’m talking about glacier peaks exceeding 10,000 feet elevation. It scared me.
Was I up to the challenge? I joined a mountaineering club at school and went along on some of the easier climbs. One time we were descending and we were hit by a whiteout. We couldn’t see 6 feet in front if us. We couldn’t see crevasses. It was cold, scary and dangerous. Fortunately we were able to descend slowly until we were out of danger.
After those training climbs, I decided that I wanted to lead these glacier mountain assaults and did so. I lead 10 successful climbs in the Pacific Northwest.
Each one of these challenges was difficult. But it helped immensely to reflect upon the earlier times when I successfully overcame them, even when they were in completely unrelated areas.
I took public speaking courses and could eventually speak in front if as many as 3000 people. I can’t say that it was a breeze but I knew that I could do it without collapsing.
Of course each new challenge can be difficult. My mind even says “well, Roy, this one is not like the others, this one is the real thing, beyond your capabilities!”. I trained myself to focus on past successes and push past the wall.
I now mentor others. I’ve also put together a program of 70 mentors for students at a local college. It helps them to know that they can succeeed in their areas of challenge. IMO mentoring is one of the most rewarding things that anyone can do. It’s valuable to hear that someone else had scary challenges that they overcame and how they did it.
Thank you, Benjamin, for leading the way in addressing this issue. One must have challenges to grow. And one must learn that they can be overcome. The payoff can be a fulfilled life.