49 hours and 17 minutes ago, 13 of my peers and I were beginning a challenge that was physically and mentally impossible. Broken into teams of 2, 7 on each team, we were to follow orders and perform various dreadful movements at the command of Navy Seal Special Ops Veterans. We had all trained hard for 8 weeks prior. Nobody knew what we were up against, yet we all showed. Much of the event was hush hush leading up to the big day. I can only speak for myself, but the secrecy caused much anxiety, fear, diminished excitement and possible night-before-bed-wetting. Not my picture-perfect Saturday morning, but I had made a commitment and I was going with a great group of people. I was not going to let them down by bailing out. They were counting on me. I was counting on them.
The week leading up to the event was filled with office chatter about the upcoming “death race.” Were we really prepared for whatever torture was going to be thrown our way? Was the secrecy really just mental manipulation to cause confusion and destabilize the group? Was this really worth it, just to spend a day with the same people I see every other day?
To sum it up:
I walked into this scared I wouldn’t be able to do what was expected. Feared getting hurt. Dreaded letting my team down. After the first 100 squats, mile and a half run, 80 push-ups, and two trips up the hill, I was sure my fears were a reality. I looked around and saw the same misery on everyone else’s faces.
But we were in this together, and darn it, we were going to live by the “no man left behind” rule.
We all made it through army crawls, sandbags, “sugar cookies” (no, not the kind you get at snack time) and many other brutal tasks. But no one did it alone. This event was teamwork in its truest form. All animosities, any personal feelings toward one another were put aside to simply make it through. Not to mention the promise of cold beer at the end helped tremendously.
Here are the three things I learned from a Special Ops Super Saturday Smack Down:
1. Courage: I was scared. I think we all were, even if the tough guys won’t admit it. Doing new things is scary, worth it, but sometimes terrifying. The fear lived inside me, but I was able to overcome that and face the challenge. Courage is not the lack of fear but rather the act of continuing to move forward and face it.
The next time you are faced with a project or task you feel is out of your league, embrace the fear and use it for strength.
2. Trust: I know my coworkers pretty well. I spend 40+ hours a week with them. I like their Facebook posts and sing Happy Birthday to them. But until we were faced with carrying a 200lb pipe up a hill while being exhausted, sandy and wet, I couldn’t have told you that I trusted all of them. I had no choice but to trust that we would look out for each other, that we would all give 100% of what we had left. Someone could have gotten hurt or maybe even have fallen off a cliff (cough, The Video Guy), but we trusted in our team to make the right choices and use our strengths (and weaknesses) to protect each other and get the job done.
Trust those that are invested in the same goals as you. If they fail you, they will fail themselves. It can be hard to let go and let others have a stake in the success, but some missions are too big to run solo.
3. Teamwork: I always preached teamwork and I thought I understood it, but I was wrong. Not until I was nose deep in the lake with a 50 lb. sandbag on my shoulders could I have understood just how much my team mattered to me. I have a problem asking for help and that’s my personal demon, but at this point, the 50lbs was turning into a wet 75lbs quick. I can’t give enough thanks to my teammate who literally took the weight off my shoulders when we hit dry land.
Even when you think you can conquer it all and work through the pain, let a willing pal take some of the work off your back. Even if only temporarily, it will give you the time you need to recover and come back even stronger.
As Monday rolled around, we were still bonding. The synchronized groans, the war stories, the differing perspectives. We went to hell and back with each other and are a little closer because of it.
The difficult things at work or in life are just that: hard, challenging, or even impossible. But from personal experience, I can tell you that when you arm yourself with a team, those victorious steps feel that much sweeter.