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Finding and Surfing Your Growing Edge

Friends and I (third from left) several years ago standing on the ferry-boat just moments before we jumped into the 51 degree water and swam across Puget Sound! That definitely pushed my edge physically and mentally.

In yoga class I teach that all the benefits begin to show up when your mind says “it’s time to leave” but you stick with it anyway. This is the growing edge that we need to “surf” if any kind of growth is going to happen, physically, mentally or otherwise. I see so many people leave when things get uncomfortable and that is a shame (in a yoga class, it’s not that people leave the room, it’s that they come out of the pose or back out of it so it isn’t as intense). I see the same thing happen in the workplace.

All the benefits begin to show up when your mind says “it’s time to go,” but you stick with it anyway.

People get fed-up with a job, a boss or some other situation; and find it easier to just switch projects, change roles or leave the company as opposed to finding a way to make things work for the best. In many cases, the issue wasn’t any external factor. It was simply that the person was not willing to put in the effort (and perhaps time) required to come up with the solution. In other cases (less common in my experience), people do lack some skill or resource, but find it too inconvenient to ask for help (or maybe it’s just too humbling to ask for help?) – and instead just move on to something else.

In the course of the past 10 years I’ve been at Microsoft, there have been literally dozens of dreadful times where I totally was not looking forward to dealing with some project or person. In each case I stuck it out and in each case the thing that seemed dreadful at first came to past and everything worked out for the best. I think the ability to endure and see things through is a lost art. We get so caught up on the need for a quick fix (fast promotions, 6-pack abs in 5 minutes a day, etc.) that our own latent skills and capabilities atrophy due to lack of consistent and prolonged use.

If you spend any time in a gym this principle becomes obvious. In order to grow muscle, you must tire the muscle and then go a little further. Only then will growth happen. You could even say that first few reps and sets of an exercise are essentially useless and it is only the final effort hat causes any real adaptation. Instead of running from this place of growth, your edge, why not make it a point to find it and push against it? If growth is an objective then doing this is a necessity. Running away from your edge guarantees that growth will not happen. In fact it guarantees that you will degrade over time as your body adapts to a new and lower state of performance.

We are experts at adaptation. Relax and you will become use to that and your edge will soften. Regularly push up against your edge and over time it will become easy and your growth boundary will move. Use this principle to your advantage. Make surfing your own edge a game. Consciously and regularly pick things that will challenge you on some level. When was the last time you did something that pushed you in a meaningful way? Let me know in the comments to this post!

3 comments

  1. Scott GF says:

    “Why go any further no one would blame you for stopping?”
    “Why would you run that far?”

    If you do anything physical you know what and where the edge is. If you don’t then you’re not pushing hard enough. I ran a turkey trot 5 miler. My goal was sub 45 minutes (yes I just started running). I ran a 41:30. My first mile was 8:33! That just tells me that I got faster as the run progressed. I pushed my edge and even had a kick at the end. My next goal will be sub 40 min.

    The high and euphoria you obtain by pushing your edge is something that you have a hard time explaining to people that don’t work out. I imagine they think it’s just BS, but it’s a real space that I find myself.

  2. Pam says:

    A good reminder to avoid coasting through life! As one who frequently pushes myself, I’d love to see you explore the flip side of this topic. Surfing or pushing the edge can be an effective way to advance–tempered with a clear understanding of the intent. For serious athletes (or yogis, or workers), relentlessly pushing the edge can lead to life imbalance, injury, and other damage. At some point we need to listen to our bodies or hearts, consider the consequences, and know when to let go–with clear intent. What questions do we ask to find the other side of the edge?

  3. Julie says:

    The last time I did something that pushed me in a meaningful way… getting really focused and consistent and diligent with achieving my goals in the gym. More than once I have wanted to walk out before even getting started, but I hung in and pushed through the mental and, at times, physical (fatigue) discomfort. Now the trick is to apply the insights and strength to getting a writing career off the ground. Thanks for striving to keep us going uphill with enthusiasm!

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