Coach Shirley’s departure from the full-time coaching team has caused me to reflect a lot on the times she and I spent together last year driving to Malibu once or twice a week to train at the home of Gabby Reece and Laird Hamilton. There were many weeks last year that I spent more time with Shirley than with any other person in my life. She was a great training partner for me, especially for training in the pool, because her willingness to get in the water despite her discomfort with the water always encouraged me to overcome my discomfort with the whole environment. I grew a lot as a person and as a coach from the training we did, from the people we met, and from the conversations we had on the drive there and back each week. Much of my growth as a coach and leader this last year has come as a result of those trips to Malibu and as necessary and (ultimately) fun as it all turned out to be, I am not sure I would have done it on my own.
Reflecting on the times Shirley and I spent in Malibu reminded me of one of the few times I trained at Laird’s without Shirley. It was a blustery November day on the mountain and the wind whipping across the surface of the pool sucked all the heat out of the water. It was so cold that the few of us who were up there were spending most of our time in the sauna trying to warm up between rounds of work in the chilly water. The sauna sessions that day gave me an insight that has been so influential on my thinking ever since.
Laird was in the sauna and next to him sat a very successful movie actor. Beside him sat a New York Times best-selling author. Across from him sat a Grammy-winning musical performer and next to him sat Kenny Kane. And our conversation, driven by our collective discomfort with the almost unbearably cold waters of the pool that day, came around to the question, “How do you reward yourself for seeking the feeling of being uncomfortable rather than relying on a positive outcome as the reward?” Relationships, professional life, or training, how do you learn to truly embrace discomfort?
It was not what I expected this group of men to collectively admit they struggled with. They are all physical specimens, incredibly gifted in their fields, and enormously successful by any metrics you might care to use. And yet, here they were, nodding in agreement with stories we all shared of struggles, of hesitation, of unwillingness, of failure – of choosing what was easy not what was right. Of shying away from the uncomfortable thing and of learning the costs of that. And learning from those lessons that everything worthwhile is on the other side of discomfort. And having to relearn that lesson over and over.
What I came away from that conversation with are three ideas that I have worked to apply in my life.
No one is immune to the pain of growth, including You. Growth is uncomfortable for everyone and there is no amount of talent or gifts or success that suddenly allows you to grow without struggle or effort. This is not a new concept and I have written about it before even on this blog. However, participating in that exchange in Malibu, hearing this group of super successful men express their struggles with the same struggles I face caused me to feel tremendous empathy for each of them. What was transformative for me was that my empathy for them allowed me to have more compassion for myself. Yes, Matt, it IS uncomfortable. For everyone, including You. So when you are feeling that pain, that discomfort, it does not mean you are weak or that you have made a mistake or that you are a failure. It means you are human. It means you are growing. (“You are not special.” – TGKB)
Get clear on your purpose. The clearer you become on who you are and what you want, the easier it will be to choose to engage in things that are consistent with your purpose and your values. There is tremendous payoff from time spent reflecting on who you want to be and what you want for your life. The clearer you get on those things, the easier it will be to confront those uncomfortable moments because of their deep connection to who you are what you want for yourself.
Surround yourself with like-minded people. Choosing to be uncomfortable, choosing to do the harder thing is difficult. But it is exponentially easier to make those choices when you have people around you who can encourage you, with whom you can share your struggles, and to whom you can be accountable. Find those people on a similar journey of growth and choose to rely on them.
I feel sad because Shirley and I don’t get to train at the pool together now. It may be a very long time before that happens again. But I am so grateful for the times we did share on the PCH and at the top of Latigo Canyon. Our conversations on the drive helped me gain so much clarity about many of the things I want for myself and about who I want to be as a man, as a coach, as a leader. Her consistent support as a training partner and encouragement as a friend helped me choose to be uncomfortable – deeply uncomfortable – and I am a better person for it. Thank you, Shirley Brown.
Strength & Power
A) 2 Hang Power Clean + 3 Front Squats
Build up to 70-80% of 1-rep max Clean & Jerk
B) Strict Press
5 sets of 3