Hunting for Growth: Don’t Forget to Pack Your Guts
Deep in the wintery Wisconsin woods, an Eager Enlistee and a Brainy Engineer have recently taken up deer hunting and are prepping for their day-long vigils. Hours of silence pass on the first day when finally, the Eager Enlistee sees a deer peeking through two oaks dead ahead. The wind is stronger than he anticipated, but he adjusts his position, takes a breath, and squeezes the trigger.
He misses. He knows his form and wind analysis could use some work. He goes home and studies up.
Miles away, the Brainy Engineer hears rustling and watches intently as a deer emerges from the brush. He does some quick wind calculations as he starts to adjust his position, but his confidence falters at the sudden gust that rushes through. He abandons the shot. That night, he studies more on how the experts calculate and adjust for wind changes.
The Eager Enlistee returns the next day. He has a button buck within range but its continual movement is making it hard to lock in his target. He decides to take the shot but only manages to graze the leg. His stance felt more stable this time, but his aim at the optimal areas for a kill shot needs improvement. He goes home and studies some more.
That same afternoon, the Brainy Engineer is focused on a target 90 yards out. He’s looking for a heart, lung, or shoulder shot, but the deer is turned just enough to obstruct these. He’s not comfortable with the position and forgoes the shot. He spends his evening diving deeper into single-shot kills.
The final day brings fervent winds to the scene but the Eager Enlistee is starting to feel more comfortable. He has a perfectly positioned buck in his sights. He immediately drops to a shooting position, but the sharp afternoon sun slices through the trees, accosting his periphery. Though his vision is compromised, he decides to take the shot and this time, he nails it. Third time’s the charm.
Faced with similar conditions, the Brainy Engineer spots a whitetail primed for a double-shoulder. He’s studied for this shot. Today’s the day. He runs his wind calculations and adjusts his position, but as he does, the deer moves and is now only partially exposed from behind a tree. He lowers his weapon and the deer darts off. No joy.
Absorbing information is learning, but learning is not always progress. Growth happens when we act on what we’ve consumed in a purposeful, courageous, and consistent way.
Both hunters were committed to understanding the craft, but the Eager Enlistee showed progress by acting and accumulating experience. The Brainy Engineer continued to forego vital experience in favor of analysis. Learning is wonderful, but if you’re aiming for growth, information has to be converted to action.
It’s easy to say we love growth and personal development. We can read incessantly, listen to podcasts, watch every TED Talk in its category, take notes, meditate, ask great questions — you name it. But at the end of the day, if we’re consuming considerably more than we’re outputting, all we’re doing is becoming mentally obese, making it harder to move on our goals and take decisive action. At some point, it’s like curling up under a blanket and watching a workout video.
If we’re actively growing, we should be experiencing two uncomfortable sensations on a consistent basis — burning and stretching. If we’re not moving toward things that scare us, then we’re not actually burning through what we’ve consumed. And it really is like a burning. Like in a workout when you fight the burning sensation through each rep, it actually feels like a heating in your chest when you’re about to embark on something scary. What happens on the other side of the burn is what counts.
Growth also shows up in the form of stretching. Sometimes, we need to say yes to things that may not necessarily be scary but they stretch us beyond what’s comfortable. Perhaps you need the challenge of waking up earlier each morning, or showing more self-control in your eating, or being more consistent with your physical activity, or using your spare time to learn a new discipline. It’s up to you to expand your capacity and challenge your limits.
What’s something in your life that keeps nagging you to embrace the burn and stretch yourself? Don’t be so concerned with the kill shot. Just have the courage to actually fire.