Do you ever look back and try to pin point defining moments? For me, I find that more often than not, my defining moments aren’t really monumental at all. However, they are major learning experiences.
One of these defining moments was when I moved out of my freshman dorm. Because of a crew regatta, I had stayed an extra week at school so everyone in my dorm had already moved out. It was pretty amazing to have the entire floor to myself… until I went to move out. All of my boxes were packed and the plan was to bring the boxes to the UPS store located across the street from campus to ship them to my house in Florida, spend one night in the dorm, and leave bright and early for the airport. The only problem, which turned out to be a major problem, was that I was all alone and couldn’t figure out how to get the boxes from my dorm to the UPS store. Luckily, a sweet custodian helped me get the boxes into a small cart… but from there I was on my own.
To paint a picture, my dorm was towards the back of campus and at the bottom of the hill. As I stood in the door frame of my dorm room, tears were just pouring out of my eyes because I could not figure out how in the world I was going to get this extremely heavy cart all the way to the UPS store by myself. It would have been hard with three people helping, let alone just me. All I wanted was a car. (This was way pre-Uber and I wasn’t old enough to rent a car.) Oh, did I mention that the UPS store was planning on closing early that day since school was out of session? I had one hour to get there.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. Long story short, I ended up pushing the cart up that steep hill, huffing and puffing it one inch at a time. Somehow, I miraculously got that cart up. (My Blackberry fell onto the ground and I had no choice but to leave it there because I couldn’t bend over to pick it up without the cart tumbling all the way down. A random stranger picked it up and I got it from his apartment at 11pm that night when he got off his shift. Can’t make this up.)
After I got those boxes checked into the UPS store, five minutes before they closed, and therefore completing what I had (only two hours before) deemed thoroughly impossible, I realized I was capable of doing a lot more than I thought I could.
I’ve carried that memory with me. When I had a project I didn’t know if I could do, when I didn’t think I could complete a work assignment, when I was stressed about making a mistake filing my taxes… I would remind myself that I made it up that hill on that hot summer day.
I swear, figuring out that I have more in me than I think has pushed me to become a better worker, a better person.
I loved the job I had out of college. I was really challenged pretty much every day to go out of my comfort zone. 99% of the time, I had no idea what I was doing… I’d remind myself about the hill and cart and then figure out how to get it done. I’d ask for help only if I truly couldn’t figure it out on my own. It might have taken me a little bit longer than if I had just asked, but then I knew exactly how to do it the next time without help and I could take on a bigger project or task next. Talk about serious growth.
One of my biggest pet peeves is when people ask questions before they’ve even given themselves a shot. Because of my age, I kind of turned into the person who answered other people’s questions at work if they were too afraid to ask their manager. Not only did it disrupt my work constantly, the person who would ask a question wasn’t even giving themselves a chance to succeed.
A favorite trick of mine to do when someone asks a question is to flip the question. Here’s an example. I often get asked for advice on how to improve their blog. I like to start by asking, “What areas do you think you could improve?” The person almost always rattles off a list of things: I could write more original content, I could take better photos, I could redo my design, etc. Those are all the things I would suggest! She knew the answer all along.
Don’t wait for someone else to rescue you (and your cart of heavy boxes). Don’t cheat yourself the opportunity for growth by asking someone else for the answer.
Trust yourself, push yourself. You’re more capable than you think.