Somewhere along the way, we teach ourselves to avoid things that are uncomfortable.
“Hey look at this,” we think. “If I just stay right here in the middle – away from all those sharp edges – then I don’t get too banged up.”
The “middle” is different for each of us. For some, the middle means not trying at all. For others, it’s grasping for the perfect no-fail formula to eliminate any uncertainty.
It’s understandable. The edge hurts sometimes.
About a year ago, I hit an edge. Hard. Some of my team and I were meeting to ramp up on a project when one person skulked in holding a sheet of graphs and numbers. She’d been sent in to our meeting to deliver the bad news: Our numbers for this project had plummeted over the last three years. And she was assigned to begin our meeting by sharing the downward curve.
I was part deflated, part infuriated. I could allow this edge send me back to my hole. Or let it amp me up. In that moment, I chose the latter.
With heart pounding (and an inner critic shouting at me to roll over and play dead) I took a deep breath. I stood up and dug deep to create inspiration.
And my team and I went “all in.” The results we ended up getting not only broke every previously held record – but we created an entirely new standard for all projects in the future.
When the sharp edges sneak up on us – as they tend to do – we can either lean in and let them prod us in the right direction. Or we can find ways to soften them or numb them out.
Conveniently, we live in a world that will jubilantly help us soften the edges.
We distract. We eat. We smoke. We drink a glass (or three) of wine before dinner. We become anti-anxiety, anti-depression, anti-mood. We watch hours of Netflix. We soften the edges.
And it kinda works, you know? In the moment, we seem not to get bumped as hard.
Only problem is that as we lose the edges, we lose a lot of other things too.
We lose the wisdom that the edges are designed to bring.
We lose the intuition that comes from the experience.
We lose the discovery of our own boundaries and preferences.
And of course, we lose the joy that is a natural result of vulnerability, awareness, and energy.
All of this results in losing our clarity, too.
The sharp edge I hit last year has produced more clarity, joy and wisdom than I could ever have gotten from anything else.
In other words, you can try your level best to stay smack dab in the middle, not bumping into the edges. But one day, it will occur to you that you have avoided so much more in the process. Including your own life.
It is always tempting to think, “If I’m truly living my purpose, shouldn’t it just always be easy?”
But that’s just that old story we’ve memorized over the years, trying to keep us safe in the middle of the road, not failing – but never winning either.
Welcome and bless your edges. After all, no one succeeds without them. They are your teachers.
In the comments below, please share an “edge” that has been a great teacher to you – and has ultimately made you more successful!