Bring On The Stress!

Bring On The Stress!

Stress is a killer, right? Well, be that as it may, I think being constantly comfortable will kill you even quicker. Putting ourselves in uncomfortable situations is absolutely essential to growth. I’m opening a cafe/bakery in my hometown of Missoula, Montana, and during the hiring process I was shown very explicitly how different personalities handle stress based on how often they put themselves in awkward, stressful positions.

I hired two bakers, one about my age with an extensive résumé in the industry but not much baking experience, and one super young guy with a less impressive résumé as far as food goes, but who is an up and coming Olympic hopeful in ice climbing. I made the elder, more experienced guy my lead baker and the ice climber the assistant.

We had five days until opening and my lead baker had to show me a few recipes I wanted made, and a few more for which I gave him creative freedom. He froze. For three days I waited for an item to taste and the one item he created was subpar at best. With two days to go, I had to let him go and I asked the ice-climber to come in and give it a shot. We just said, “Here’s your kitchen. Go for it.” It was amazing to watch. ere was about 30 seconds of processing time and then he just dove in, full speed ahead. No fear whatsoever. e most amazing part was when the first product came out of the oven completely charred, he didn’t even bat an eye, and just said, “Well, let’s try it again.” e second try came out perfect.

When I thought about how this guy solves problems while climbing, and that his decisions could mean life or death, it made total sense. He puts himself in much more stressful situations all the time. is was nothing for him, even at his young age. Truly inspiring.

Think about it this way: When a lobster leaves its shell in the process of growth (and change), it becomes very vulnerable. As it grows, the shell gets very confining and uncomfortable. It hides from predators underneath a rock, sheds its shell and makes a new one. It does this repeatedly. The point of the story is that the impetus for growth in the lobster is that it feels uncomfortable. e lobster doesn’t just take a Valium to numb itself from the stress and discomfort and pretend it’s not there.

We must challenge ourselves and throw ourselves into uncomfortable situations often in order to grow as human beings. Every time you practice, make sure you are not just repeating what you already know and feel safe playing. Put yourself into that place of discomfort, where you feel embarrassed or self-conscious. Play with players who are better than you as often as possible. Be humbled so that you’re forced to problem-solve in the moment or fall on your face. If you fail, follow my baker’s example and just do it again until you get it right. Times of stress are also times of growth. row your fragile ego out the window and dive in. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.

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