Painful, Humiliating “Growth Opportunities”

CompassUseTargetMarkedFinding out that you don’t really know as much as you think you do makes you feel pretty foolish, humiliated, and, quite frankly, embarrassed at missing the obvious. But… even in the pain of learning the hard way… what great opportunities to grow! So… with a little redness in my face… here’s a story of one of my first, but not last by any means, times that I had a “growth opportunity.”

When I attended Colorado School of Mines, I was required to take Army ROTC and absolutely loved it! We learned how to mountain climb, rappel, we practiced winter survival skills, mountain rescue, and got to do all sorts of extreme activities in the mountains. Part of the training was in orienteering… where you are given way-points and you see how fast you can get through a course. If I remember correctly… the directions went something like… follow a compass bearing of 140 degrees for 500 yards and then follow a bearing of 220 degrees for 245 yards… until you get to the end! You had to record the code or symbol you found at each way-point and the fastest time won. This was pre-GPS so all we had to use was a compass… and as I remember it, no map.

Full of confidence and bravado… we knew how to do this… off we started. We got our first bearing… then started measuring out the distance… heel to toe, heel to toe, heel to toe… 1 yard… heel to toe, heel to toe, heel to toe… 2 yards. Man it seemed to take a long time to go that far! So… faster… heel to toe, heel to toe, heel to toe… On and on we went and to our disappointment, we were last.

But the biggest thing that hit us was our dumbfounded realization, accompanied by total embarrassment and humiliation, that we should have used running paces to measure… not heel to toe walking. Looking back, I’m sure that the Army sergeants who ran the event are still sharing the story and laughing about two “smart” engineers at Colorado School of Mines who didn’t even know or think about measuring using paces!

What a “humbler” that was… an eye opener… and a humongous growth opportunity. From that fateful orienteering experience, I’ve tried to make it a point to listen, observe and learn before “stepping” out. When I do, it’s helped in life… when I don’t, which happens more that I want to admit, more “growth opportunities!”

Isn’t it interesting how a little knowledge and confidence can feed the ego? But… there’s a saying about that… pride comes before the fall. I continue to have areas that trip me up and probably will all my life. How about you? Are there some areas that you need to step back, listen, observe and learn before you step out? Growth can occur that way also, and it’s usually not nearly as painful or humiliating!

You don’t have to learn the hard way. Stop, listen, learn and observe even in areas you might think you know what’s going on.

What are some areas in your life that you might experience “growth opportunities?”