If you’re not growing, you’re dying.
That’s one of the most popular concepts in business. While it is a partially true maxim in business, it holds even truer in your personal development.
When we are young, our brains are exploding with new growth. Literally everything a baby does is a growth challenge. Whether they are trying to walk, crawl, make their first sounds with their mouth, it is all an immense challenge.
As an adult, we become much more stagnant. After we get the basics of life, too many of us just simply stop moving forward. We get enamored with our routines. We slog through weeks to get through to the weekends where we just kill time. We coast through jobs that often become too easy for us.
In the pandemic, I’ve fallen victim to this, and I’ve talked to many clients where this is becoming a problem.
Growth comes when you put yourself in uncomfortable positions – this could be meeting new people, trying new activities where you are a humble beginner (something adults run from), speaking in public, or embarking on a new career.
As I watched the pandemic turn my family’s life into to a slow-paced routine of eat, work, sleep, repeat, we became one of the millions of households that embarked upon the adventure of learning to play chess. As has been widely reported – between the pandemic forcing boredom and isolation as well as the runaway popularity of The Queen’s Gambit, millions of other players have either found or come back to the game.
At my house, my 5-year-old son and I have been obsessed with learning the game for a little over a month. As he has few work responsibilities, he gets to play much more than I do, but as of this writing I am still slightly ahead of him (ask me in a month and I might have had to give up the throne by then). My wife plays much less, but she is also trying to learn so she can stay competitive with the house.
In the scheme of things, none of us are good yet because chess isn’t a game that you can truly learn in a month – even if you think you have a natural talent or are “smart.”
Starting something new at 37, or any adult age, is challenging. My 5-year-old is still close enough to his youngest years that he probably remembers learning to walk and drinking from a sippy cup being a challenge. I, on the other hand, am used to be proficient at the things I do in my life so logging on to chess.com to potentially lose badly to a 12-year-old can be frustrating or depressing if I don’t approach things with the right mindset.
The frustration of being new at something is enough for MOST people (especially adults) to just stop doing it. If you think back to something that you’ve started and then abandoned, I your quitting was in at least in part due to the frustration of being a beginner. (The WSJ had an amazing essay about the importance of being an adult beginner that you should definitely read).
Many people go to workout for the first time in January after making New Year’s resolutions to change their bodies. By February most of those people have given up.
It’s hard to walk into the gym looking sloppy and overweight while struggling through your first workout in years – especially when the person next to you looks like Brad Pitt from Fight Club.
That discomfort that most people run from needs to be something that you embrace, seek out, and relish when you find it.
If you are getting older like I am, then it’s important you create new neural pathways and challenge your brain to work in ways that it doesn’t in your day to day life. That can be as simple as playing chess or doing puzzles or as complicated as changing job.
The bonus is when you take up something new it opens new doors for you. My son took on the challenge of learning chess and now he has a way to connect with his family that is spread across the country. He calls them on skype and plays chess with his grandparents almost daily (they are not keeping up, but it sure does build his confidence). Change begets change. Action creates momentum.
Like I said, if you’re not growing, then you’re dying.
Today, start something new. You can become friends with me on chess.com, join a new club, start your workout plan at the gym, or start writing the novel you’ve been putting off. Whatever it is, don’t let the changing world keep you from growing and changing yourself.
Your life coach.
The Andrew Warner Podcast: