“Challenge yourself”, they said.

Maybe you replied, “why?”, or maybe you didn’t say anything at all.

I don’t know why you chose the answer your did, or if you perhaps ignored the question altogether.  Each of us has incredibly personal reasons for how we react to certain types of motivation, and whether or not we rise to a challenge we find in our lives.

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If you either ignored the question, or failed at achieving to challenge yourself, take a moment and look back at what kept you from being successful.

We often don’t assess a challenge objectively.

I find this in my life – I see something I want, it’s going to take some work to accomplish, and I think to myself, “oh, I can do that in three hours”, or some other ridiculously low estimate of the time or energy I will need to see it through to the end.  This happens to me all the time, and I have no problem admitting it.

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Here’s a perfect example – I decided that I wanted to move some furniture around in my house, nothing big, just swapping a desk that I was using in the guest bedroom as a night table and putting it in our shared home office.  The table I had in the office was entirely wrong for the guest room and there was zero chance I was going to leave it looking like a garage sale, especially since we frequently have guests this time of year.

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I also purchased a used paint spray gun on craigslist a few months ago – it’s also a fact that you can’t paint in Arizona in the summer since the paint dries before you can get it on the wall or whatever you want to paint.

Expect the unexpected.

The day after I had taken the table out to the garage and started sanding it down, we end up with an unexpected house guest, who is going to use that room.  So now there was no way to get the table back into the bedroom.  But I also knew that I had more houseguests who were scheduled to show up a week later, and the table had to get finished.  Did I mention that I had to run up to San Francisco for two days during this week for a meeting?

Now I have the table, I finish the sanding, and the day before I’m leaving town when I think I’m going to be able to put the primer coat on (I’m not that fast with this new paint gun, since I really didn’t practice before I started painting stuff), it turns up windy in the morning.  Since I don’t have a spray booth in my garage I have to paint outside, so this is bad.

Tick tock, said the clock.

I’m just about to go into panic mode, mostly because I really want to use the spray gun, I’m enamored of this thing – so much so that you’d think I was going into the auto body repair business.  I couldn’t use it when I first bought it, then I couldn’t get it to work, and when it all got sorted, I just LOVE painting with it, and I’m addicted to painting stuff with it by this point.

Challenge yourself isn’t even the operative word in this instance; I’m like a madwoman, chomping at the bit to use the stupid paint gun, refusing to consider putting the table back in the guest room unfinished, and I’ve got very lofty ambitions for how it should look.

Did I mention I haven’t actually tried spraying polyurethane with the paint gun yet?  But my whole plan hinges on getting the paint on and then putting multiple coats of water based polyurethane on with this spray gun…

Put your head down and paddle.  Or pedal.

You might recall my blog from last fall, when I was doing a bit of sailboat racing and we won a very big regatta under circumstances that should have led to us being DFL (dead f’ing last).  And there were plenty of times during the racing where we were in last place, but I absolutely refused to give up, I yelled at my teammates, and I kept pushing us like the devil himself were driving us to the finish.

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Same thing here.  I wanted that table finished; nothing else would suit me and nothing was going to keep that table from getting finished the way I wanted it to be done.

If you’ve ever kayaked on a river that’s governed by tidal flow – in a delta most commonly – then you know that some days you can paddle downstream but be heading up current.  And if the wind is blowing against you, the only choice you have is to put your head down and paddle, or you won’t make any headway towards your destination.

Same thing with pedaling to the top of our street on our morning bike rides (we, like most normal people, do not ride our bikes outside in the summer in Arizona either, lol) or else we can’t get to the top of the hill and there’s no thrill of riding down the hill with the wind whipping your hair and that sense of exhilaration from speeding along nearly out of control.

Lady, what happened with the table?

Oh yeah, right.  Back to the real story here.  I have this same problem when we record our podcasts, I am a rambler with a million asides to every recounting of nearly everything I’m saying.  I just can’t help myself.

The table was finished, of course – the day before it needed to be done.  Which is pretty major for me, since I’m usually finishing at the very last minute, since I vastly underestimate how long most challenges are going to take to complete.  That used to lend itself to a long string of nearly finished tasks, but over the years I’ve gotten better at putting my head down and paddling.  Or pedaling, whichever you prefer.

So the moral of my story is that when you challenge yourself, be prepared to keep at it until you do succeed.  There are so many obstacles that want to jump in your path and trip you up, and you have no idea which ones will be the hard ones.


You can get through it and succeed way more often than you think, I am willing to bet.  Think about it.

Challenge Yourself

Yes, that is a Mailchimp crochet cap on that bunny, in case you were wondering.