Paul is one of our behind-the-scenes tech “gurus” here at SparkPeople. We asked him to share his story in the hopes that it will inspire others to take risks and challenge themselves. Click here to read Part One of his story.
Roughly one year after taking on SparkGuy's 100-day fitness challenge, I found myself in Las Vegas, ready to take on my next challenge at the IBJJF World Championship.
The event itself was totally outside my comfort zone. It was held at a convention center in Las Vegas that was bursting at the seams with people. There were cameras streaming the event on the Internet. There were professional photographers and famous athletes. The energy inside was electric.
For my teammates, I was happy to see them perform and do their best. I didn’t think they had to feel badly about anything if they were to lose their match. For myself, though, deep down I didn’t believe it was okay for me to lose.
Spoiler alert: I did not win.
My opponent was from Brazil (kind of intimidating when the competition is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu) and, despite my nerves, I went out on the mat and actively engaged him right from the start. We made it to the final seconds of the match with our scores being zero to zero. In the final seconds, we both attempted some techniques which got us into a scramble and I managed to get very close to achieving a position which would have given me the win. I missed the position, however, and my opponent received points that ultimately gave him the win. He went on to win the bronze medal at the event. He shook my hand and hugged me both before and after the match.
But there is, of course, a silver lining. In addition to learning a lot and improving as a practitioner of this art, I was also able to be a good teammate to the men who I helped prepare for the event.
Not only that, but this unique and challenging experience forced me to push myself and attempt something far outside my comfort zone. I improved as a result of that push. I also found that there were people around me at every turn who were willing to help and support me. I shouldn’t have been surprised by this, but in some ways, I was! My advice is that if you have something in your life you want to attempt or accomplish--do it! You might find more support and more cheerleaders than you ever expected. Witnessing such fervent support from family and friends alike was probably my favorite part of the whole experience.
Even though I lost my match, I don’t feel like I failed. Or, maybe I should say it this way--in certain situations, failing is not the worst thing. It might even be necessary for future successes. At the competition, I was unduly worried and frightened by the possibility of failure. My brain thought that some catastrophe would come along with failing. But it didn’t. I didn’t win my match. That’s all. For everyone else, I was able to watch them compete and say, “Good job! You got out there and you did it. You didn’t win this time, but who cares? Be proud.” While it wasn't easy to get in that mindset at the time, I am getting closer to being able to say those same things to myself.
I wanted to do the training and competition to feel proud of myself and so I could make people close to me (my wife, my kids, training partners, etc.) proud of me as well. In the end, the first part of that is a great goal. It was worth the hard work to do something difficult and feel proud of it, even with a loss. As for the second part of making other people proud of me, upon reflection I recognize that the people close to me are already proud of me, and I doubt a world championship would alter that too much.
As an aside, my 10 minutes of fitness or more per day streak is alive and well. As of this writing, I’m up to 383 days.
So this is my message--get out of your comfort zone and try for something you want. The trying is worth it. You will gain something whether or not you succeed, because sometimes failures are not the worst thing. Think about it--what could you accomplish in just one year?
Have you ever stepped out of your comfort zone to try something new? How did it go? Share your experience in the comments below!
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