Pushing Your Limits and Why You Should Get Uncomfortable

January 15th, 2015

If you’re reading this then you probably live in a first world country. You probably have heat, running water, and most of the comforts that accompany living in a developed nation.

I recently finished reading a book called Unbroken. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it tells the unbelievable true story of a World War II solider whose plane was shot down deep over the Pacific. I won’t spoil the story, but let’s just say this solider – who also happens to be a former Olympian – went through the unimaginable during his plight for survival.

Reading through this story I keep thinking about how comfortable my life is. I have a roof over my head and don’t yearn for much. Life’s been good.

I’m reminded of just how important it is to push our comfort zone. It’s so easy to get sucked into our comfortable lives without every really pushing the boundaries of our potential. Because it’s when we push our boundaries and get uncomfortable that transformational growth can occur.

So, what this got to do with your business, career, personal life, etc? The short answer: everything.

If we don’t make a conscious effort to push our limits and expand our comfort zone we loose our sharpness. We get dull. And when we get dull it impacts our lives in numerous ways.

Frankly, we can’t afford you to get dull. We need you. We need you to contribute, lead, push, invent, and create.

So what can you do?

Here’s an idea, a first step. The next time you get the feeling that you could be doing more – go with it, don’t run from it. Take the one next step to examine how you can push the envelope. You don’t need an outline or game plan. You just need to take the small next step.

Go get uncomfortable. The rewards are always worth the short-term loss of comfort. Remember: everything is uncomfortable the first time you do it.

Your friend,

Dennis P.

Got other ideas on how to push past your mental limits? Drop a comment below and share it with other readers.

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How To Become A Stronger Leader By Watching Soccer (I’m serious)

May 12th, 2013

Tell any bartender in the US that you’d rather watch an English soccer match over an NFL game on Sunday and you might get slapped! Compared to other sports, soccer just hasn’t captured the beating hearts of Americans like baseball, basketball, and football has.

Just like many Americans I know very little about the most wildly popular game on the planet. And it wasn’t until several years ago that I decided to the join the party (and the rest of the world!) and follow the sport.

So, I started. And at first, it was gut wrenching because outside of the bare-bones basics I knew absolutely nothing about the game. 

And a couple of years passed…

And there I found myself immersed in a game that I grew to follow every weekend. It was great. I was starting to find common ground with other soccer fanatics, and was able to build friendships with people who I otherwise would never know.

It was a wild ride. Watching soccer with people who really follow the game is a riot! Soccer fans know how to have a fun time and they really embrace people into their fraternity – novice and hard-core fans alike.

But still, I knew I was a fraud. I really didn’t know what the heck was going on! Sure, I could idly watch the game, but did I understand the strategy behind it? No. Did I have any clue on exactly what each position was supposed to do? Nope. I was a totally dissatisfied with how little I actually knew about a game that I was following so closely.

Something had to change.

Booya! The fix is on

I decided there was only one decent way to fix this. And that was: I needed to really dig my heels and immerse myself into the game.

So, I started asking my soccer-following friends about the strategy of the game. I wanted to know how teams differed in their approach to the game. I wanted to know why some teams relied on the counter-attack, why others relied on passing to open up the field for goal scoring possibilities. I wanted to drill deeply into facets of the game that most novices like me never get to experience.

It was finally during a soccer conversation with my Portuguese friend that I started to get it. My friend explained that soccer’s a game of finding space and keeping control of the ball. After all, if the other team doesn’t have the ball – they can’t score! Similarly, if a team with the ball can find a player with enough space between them and the defender, that player can open up opportunities to either score or find someone who can.

Prying my head out of a hole

Watching soccer on TV is cool because you can see a lot of the field. You’re typically not pinned down to a certain part – like you are with football (the other football!). TV cameras televising a soccer match give the audience a perspective of the game that’s lost with most other sports.

This was the trigger that deepened the game for me because it allowed me to see firsthand how soccer players “found space” on the field.

So, in my fight to deepen my understanding of the game I started to change the way I watched it. That’s right: I simply changed the way I watched it on TV.

Instead of just focusing on the player with the ball, I instead started zooming out to the rest of the field. This vantage point gave me the opportunity to watch as plays developed on the field.  

And guess what? My understanding of the game quickly developed.

I started seeing patterns in the game that I never noticed before. I began to understand why players made the pass/shoot decisions they made, and started to pick-up on how teams manipulated the field to open up space for its players.

It was a like a whole new dimension of the game had opened up to me! A dimension that was always there, but because I was so narrowly focused on the player who had possession of the ball, I never paid attention to anything else.

This is what had previously crushed my understanding of the game. I was so focused on where the immediate action was that I wasn’t opening myself up to see how the action was developed in the first place!

Tying soccer back to leadership

We all know: being a leader is about many things. There are many people out there who propose many different perspectives on the traits that produce a truly effective leader. And this makes sense. If you want to be an effective leader – you need to raise your game on many different levels. 

I’m of the opinion that there are maybe only a handful of traits that budding leaders should focus 80% of their attention on. And within this fistful of traits that produce a strong leader, perhaps the most powerful is the ability to see things that others don’t. This is what most people call vision.

Just like the midfielder who sees the forward streaking up the soccer field to a spot nobody else can see, so does the leader who has the vision to see how all the parts of an organization fit together. She can see the cadence of the organization’s moving parts. She has an instinctive pulse on what’s reverberating throughout her organization. She sees what others don’t. She has vision.

A widening of reality

Seeing the big picture widens your reality. When you start to expand your vision, your perception of what’s happening – or, what’s not happening – around you starts to deepen. You begin to widen your reality and expand your limits of possibility. This helps to explain why one of the focal pillars of leadership is vision. When we don’t develop of our ability to widen our vision, we handicap our progression toward being a strong leader.

Get to it

The really cool part about vision is that it can be developed. Sure, some are naturally blessed with wider vision from the get go. But for most us, it’s a gift we need to build. I encourage you to find ways to develop it.

Since my eye-opening experience with creating vision over the soccer field, I’ve uncannily found other ways to deepen it in other areas of my life. It’s funny: when we start focusing on something, our mind seems to find infinite opportunities to build on to whatever it is we’re focusing on. Focus on improving your vision, and you’ll without a doubt find many ways to deepen it. And the impact won’t just be on one part of your life, it’ll be on many.

Your friend,

Dennis Paresa

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