If I don’t struggle, I won’t improve.
As I sat at the big round dining table with my Chinese hosts in Shanghai a few years ago, I struggled with my chopsticks. The restaurants would often bring silverware to Western guests, but I’d wave it off and insist on chopsticks.
In China, the food is served onto a central rotating “Lazy Susan,” and everyone serves themselves. Much of their food is slippery, so serving myself was often awkward. It was obvious that I was a foreigner, but I was also a special guest.
They referred to me as “Teacher.” As I struggled, they would say, “Oh no, Teacher, please let me do that for you.” Then I would say, “No, thank you (xie xie boo yao), I need to do this because if I don’t struggle, then I won’t improve.”
At first, they’d insist, but when I stood my ground, they’d back off and let me keep trying. The first few times I did this, they didn’t understand, but as they saw me get better and better, they’d give me one of those hand-against-fist salutes and show me even more respect.
Today, I’m rather good with chopsticks, but I couldn’t have become better without working through the struggles at first.
Isn’t this true for everything in life? We need the struggle. “It’s too hard!” needs to be followed by the words “at present.” Any new skill or behavior will be difficult at first. But if we struggle and do the trial-and-error process until we succeed, then we’ll acquire a new skill. New skills expand the world of what’s possible for you.
Learn a new language, and you suddenly have millions of new people with whom you can communicate. Learn a new success habit, and old limitations melt away.
So, welcome the challenges. If your life is really easy for now, say, “More challenges, please! I need to struggle.”
By the way, Thom Tschetter’s article titled “Tying Your Shoelaces” is also in this issue of GEARS. I feel our two articles are complementary, and I recommend that you read Thom’s article after this one for the full effect.
My grandson loves music and math. In both cases, he challenges himself with compositions or equations that cause him to practice and concentrate. Once he does that, he’s free to use the new skills without difficulty, and his world expands.
He’ll find a song on YouTube and watch a tutorial to learn it. Then he’ll sit and play it over and over until he’s mastered it. That’s some impressive self-discipline! I didn’t have that much self-control when I was growing up. But now I recognize that every time I persevered through my struggles, my world got bigger with a new skill at the end of the struggle.
What’s your next struggle? A new transmission design? A workflow management or accounting software program for your shop, or a new tool you aren’t yet comfortable using? A new life skill to expand your duties and opportunities? Pick a lane. Select a targeted path that you’d like to advance along. Maybe even look outside your industry or job. What about taking on a committee assignment for your service club, school, or church? Where could you step up with a modest level of risk and a high probability of acquiring a new skill?
With every new skill comes new confidence, and that’s the “killer app.” Confidence spills over into many areas and makes you more capable under all circumstances.
One ATRA member who’s always impressed me is Donny Caccamise of DMC Transmission in Ventura, California. We met when we were both guests on a radio show. Later, I saw him in action in committee meetings and board meetings at ATRA, in his own shop, and as the host of his own international radio show “Horsepower for An Hour™” with Tom Spence. What impresses me about Donny is that he steps up to challenges instead of avoiding them or looking for workarounds. Whenever he did this, his confidence grew, and so did his skills. In other words, his world got bigger.
How could you step into your challenges more boldly today? Find your biggest fear and confront a small part of it, at first. Then take on more and more as your abilities grow. If there aren’t any BIG challenges in your life right now, go shopping for some! Say to the world, “More, Please!” In life, it seems like the easy path is less rewarding than the one preceded by struggles. So, look at the elevator and the stairway, and choose the stairs. Nobody ever became more fit by taking the “lift” instead of the stairs. Now, where are those chopsticks?