Recently while watching one of my favorite biographical documentaries about Shane McConkey, the mad man that turned the skiing world on its head in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, I couldn’t help but be enamored by his approach to life and his profession.
(The film is titled McConkey for those interested in watching it – I highly recommend it.)
This is a man that marched to his own beat, made his own way, and was the true definition of an entrepreneur - not in a startup business sense, but in the sense that he worked tirelessly for his own definition of success and came out on top as a self-made man. Shane McConkey went from a broke ski bum, to the most revered extreme sports athlete on the planet because he found what he loved to do, what he was truly great at, and attacked it with reckless abandon.
He helped pioneer extreme skiing and gave it legitimacy on a global level. A habitual addict for thrills, he was indoctrinated into the secret society of BASE jumpers by one of the sport's pioneers, Frank Gambalie. McConkey was the first true Red Bull extreme athlete and he inspired me to write this post because of one line; at one point in his BASE jumping adventures he exclaimed:
“There’s something really cool about getting scared. I don’t know what.”
This quote hit home for me because it made me think about my very first day in the recruiting industry and what it was like to make my first cold call (a far cry from BASE jumping), but I was scared. What if I failed? Would they fire me on my first day? This was my first job out of college and I needed that income stream.
That first day on the phone was terrifying. But, the next day for some odd reason I couldn’t wait to get back at it. I made over 150 calls that day and something clicked. The next day I got better, and the next day I got better. Then we started doing recruiting role plays in front of all of the other recruiters. Aaaand I was terrified once again – these guys were going to hear how bad I was on the phone. NOOOO! Low and behold I was bad, but there was some good mixed in. Everyone who was there wanted to help me get better – what a relief! – and it made me more open to skill-building exercises like this, knowing that everyone involved was there to help.
So what’s most important to me, about this quote by Shane, is it reminded me that in order to improve and get better at not only my job, but anything in life, I have to step outside of my comfort zone. We all do.
The first step is deciding that you want and need to improve something, identifying what it is you want to improve, seeking help, and following through. It can be tough to seek out help, but if you work with someone who is really good at their job or is at a point in their career or life that you want to get to, make it a point to be around them more. Pick their brain. Ask them questions. And try to push yourself out of your comfort zone.
The more you get used to confronting your fears and overcoming that initial anxiety, the easier it is to do it the next time, and the next time, and eventually complete a task that you may have seen as insurmountable in the past. Habits are like muscles; you have to continue to work at them and exercise them in order to strengthen and improve them. We can’t all live like a reckless skiier known for skiing off cliffs with parachutes on his back like James Bond, but we can learn a little bit by his perpetual attempts to one-up himself.
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