C’mon in, the Water’s Fine

No one could ever accuse me of being athletic. My idea of a sport is speed-reading. And perhaps because I read too much, I had to wear glasses by the time I was ten. Around that same time I joined the swim team, nudged by my parents who no doubt wanted me to do something constructive with my summer. So I swam, albeit tentatively. Without my glasses and hampered by a lack of depth perception, I was never quite sure whether I would glide in or finish a lap with a resounding whack as my head butted up against the wall of the pool.

Cut to the present: I recently joined a gym. Part of the lure of membership was the beautiful Olympic-sized pool even though I hadn’t been in a pool in years. I spent the first few months watching wistfully from the sidelines–I couldn’t bring myself to go in. For one thing, I wanted to look good in a swimsuit before going swimming (circuitous logic, I know). But a few weeks ago, I took the plunge.

As I skimmed along the water during a morning workout, I thought about my swimming breakthrough in the context of business and career success:

  • If we want to succeed, we gotta get into the water. Although I’m a strong swimmer, I had fears: How did I look? What’s the pool protocol? Would I have all the right gear? The terrain was unfamiliar and I felt awkward and self-conscious. Still, I jumped in. In business and in life, you gotta get into the water or, to use another sports analogy, you have to get onto the playing field if you’re going to make a difference.
  • It’s OK to be afraid. I couldn’t believe how nervous I was before using the pool. Everything from the pre-swim shower regimen to the etiquette of moving into someone’s lane seemed daunting. But the feeling of exhilaration I had after my first swim was as much about facing my fear head-on as it was from the aerobic activity. Anything worth doing is worth being terrified by—including making sales calls, speaking in public, and facing the rejection of interviews or of the marketplace. Do it anyway. Eleanor Roosevelt, one of my heroines, once said, “Do one thing that scares you every day.”
  • Practice the fundamentals. It’s been many years since that myopic young girl competed on a swim team but the minute I hit the water I remembered the fundamentals of swimming. Everything from the crisp cut of the water with my hands while doing the breaststroke to breathing into the crook of my arm while doing the Australian crawl came back to me. Whether we’re building a business or taking our careers to the next level, we first have to learn the fundamentals. Then, we have to practice, practice, practice.
  • The only way to grow is to be willing to be uncomfortable.  Barbara Stanny in her seminal work with people and money says that one of the first steps in overcoming underearning is to be willing to be uncomfortable. We love routine and yes, rituals and traditions are good for us. But we have to step outside our comfort zone in order to grow.

Last night I went for a late-night swim. As I did the backstroke I saw the reflection of a swimmer above me in the glass ceiling. I watched her skim along the lane, sometimes veering off a little to the right but always moving forward. Maybe not as lithe as she once was or as fast as she once swam. But at least she was in the water.

What will you do today to take you outside your comfort zone? C’mon in. The water’s fine.

[Photo credit: iStockphoto]

11 thoughts on “C’mon in, the Water’s Fine

    1. I hadn’t gone swimming for a variety of silly reasons–all of which I’d be happy to share with you off-line. :–> I admit the chlorine wreaks havoc on the hair, but it’s worth it. Thanks for reading & chiming in, Jackie.

  1. Vickie, first, always a pleasure to read your posts. Second, “Anything worth doing is worth being terrified by” is something I am going to bring back into my life, and remember that our juiciest gains come out of us getting uncomfortable. Thanks for this!

    1. Thank you so much, Agnes, for your kind words. You took a quantum leap recently as I recall so you can be very, very proud. What’s next for you? What “deep end of the pool” are you going to jump into? Love you!

  2. Those are good words, Vickie! “Anything worth doing is worth being terrified by.” That is exactly how I got through grad school, and exactly how I get through every rehearsal and every performance. That you for reminding me of E. Roosevelt’s quotation. She was a great lady. And so are you!

    1. Jen–thank you for joining the discussion! I may have to make up a magnet with those words since they seem to have resonated with you and others (although I do so hate to end a sentence with a preposition…) I, too, quaked my way through grad school, waiting to be “busted” at any moment for impersonating a business person (in spite of 15 years of business experience). Another great Eleanor R. quote that keeps me going: “A woman is like a tea bag–you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

  3. Your words hit home with me. I am getting out of my comfort zone by doing some public speaking on a topic I’m passionate about in the near future. My anxiety level is definitely up there. It helps that I’m passionate about the topic and sharing this info and that I’m doing it at church where I feel people will be understanding and supportive and I’ll definitely have that divine guidance.
    I too was a swimmer in HS. Water ballet for me (which they now call synchronized swimming).
    Diving in!

    1. Maritess–if I am awarded a Genius Grant by the MacArthur Foundation it will be thanks to you and the Panache Partnership Mastermind Group! I’ll use some of that $625K for a spa weekend for the ladies. That’s a promise!

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