It’s fascinating what transforming effects extraordinary experiences can have on our lives. That is, if we choose to learn from them.
What’s even more fascinating is how such experiences are always just around the corner when we choose to leave the comfort of our daily routine and explore a path less known. Today, I would like to share an experience just like that. But let’s start at the beginning.
I was born on a beautiful October morning…
Okay, just kidding; not THAT beginning.
No, the adventure I’d like to share happened several years ago, while I was still in university. At the time, I was rather socially anxious, yet very ambitious and disliked my anxieties, naturally. So when I got an opportunity to go and work abroad for four months, I was more than happy to accept. But here’s the deal:
- I would be flying across the pond from Europe to the United States.
- I wouldn’t know in which state I would be located until last days of training.
- I would have to find a place to live on my own, in two days.
- I would be working on commissions only.
- I would work as a door-to-door salesman (please don’t hate me).
- I would be doing this as a recession kicked in and everyone was saving their last cents.
Now, one would imagine that this was not a perfect job for someone who at the time got anxious just talking to people (without a solid injection of alcohol) and, yes, just thinking about what I was about to do stressed me out.
But I figured if I was ever going to get rid of my anxieties, I needed to put myself in a “do or die” position. (Yeah. I was rather dramatic at the time.)
Lesson One: The Importance of Practice
Starting six months prior to our flight, we had once- or twice-a-week trainings. Our whole group consistent of about 30 people, and we practiced everything—the script, the body language, the strategies, how to move around, what to eat, how to motivate ourselves. We practiced furiously.
And it worked. Even in very uncomfortable situations, we somehow knew what to do. I mean, try putting someone in an unknown town, in an unknown country, and telling this person to get a place to live (not a hotel) and start working on Monday.
Without having rehearsed it like a hundred times before, I know I would have freaked out and collapsed. But we did practice this situation, at least a hundred times, and by the end of the second day, my roommate and I had already rented a room from a very nice family.
Lesson Two: Never Underestimate What Impact Stress Can Have on Your Health
As with every good story, a happy beginning has to be replaced by an unfortunate twist. In my case, it was an injury. A couple of weeks in, I suffered a leg injury. This was not a big surprise as we were working around 10-12 hours a day (approximately 80 hours a week) on foot, walking.
This meant I could not continue working without risking doing permanent damage. But here’s the interesting part:
At the time, this work was ferociously stressful on me. Whole days were spent out of my comfort zone and with almost no recovery time. Turns out, there’s a limit to how much abuse our bodies can take.
And what happened when I called my manager to inform about quitting? The pain in my leg started to subside. It took only a week or so for me to be walking normally again.
To this day, I love pushing my comfort zones, but since then it’s always in healthy and supportive environments and only for the right reasons.
Lesson Three: People Can Be Absolutely Amazing When We Need Them the Most
Unfortunately, quitting my job was not all sunshine and rainbows. It meant that my roommate was relocated to another town and I no longer had a job and just about $200 left, while the flight home was still three months away.
I guess I don’t need to explain how many thoughts of giving up I had at the time. But this is also the situation where I learned my most valuable lesson: people are truly good and helpful.
The family I was renting the room from stepped up and, without me asking, allowed me to stay with them free of charge. Even more so, this family made my whole stay with them absolutely amazing. And in return, all they asked that if there’s ever a situation in my life when someone else needs my help, I would do the same for this person that was once done for me.
Don’t tell anyone, but just remembering it makes my eyes wet.
Lesson Four: Under Pressure, We Learn to Strive
So my rent was covered and I would be able to survive for the three remaining months. But I was not willing to settle for this. I was still going to make the most of this situation. First, I had to get a job.
You’d be surprised, but the job market was not craving foreigners with no previous work experience, especially in a recession. I suppose the reasonable approach at the time would have been to send out resumes and wait for someone to respond. But these were not reasonable conditions, and I needed a job—any job—now.
So instead, I went around town applying for jobs, everywhere from restaurants to nursing homes to malls. And by “applying,” I mean going straight to managers with a well-prepared pitch of “Hi, my name is Darius and I am a student from Europe. Are you hiring?”
What’s fascinating about this? Well, remember my social anxieties?
They were still there. My hands were still shaking and my voice was still trembling each time I said my line. And yet I learned that when the reasons are right, we act in spite of fear. Two days later, I got a job in a diner.
Lesson Five: Bad Things Happen; Deal With It
What’s the difference between a good story and a great one? In a great story, there’s always another twist around the corner. And my adventure was about to become great.
About a month after getting my second job, the business went bankrupt. I was jobless again. I was starting to wonder if someone above was playing a joke on me.
Turns out it was an opportunity in disguise. Several days later, I got a better job in constructions and met another bunch of amazing people.
I learned that when things go bad, we need to suck it up and deal with the situation. Then good things will start to happen.
Bonus Lesson: A Positive Outlook On Life Helps—A Lot
Before I finish my story, I would like to share one last insight.
While training for the original sales job, we were constantly told that it would be hard and that everyone would cry and feel discouraged their first weeks. And indeed, almost everyone did, except for me.
When looking back, I see a very interesting pattern: regardless of what was happening around me at the time, I would always have this attitude that somehow everything would turn out for the best.
Without this silent confidence, I highly doubt I would have made it in this adventure or had so much fun doing it. Also, it enabled me to get myself into many more adventures later in life. And to this day, I don’t think there’s a more helpful attitude to have when trying to live life to its fullest.
Oh, and you might be wondering if my plan to get rid of those social anxieties worked in the end. In short: absolutely!
Darius Belejevas is the author of 2Have2Be2Do.com, where he writes for people who refuse to settle for second best in life and yet understand that to make things happen, we need to make hard decisions, work deliberately, and have an unshakable commitment to the idea of life on our own terms. He loves getting himself into adventures, takes the path less known, and enjoys his own life to its fullest.
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Image: Satbir Singh / Flickr
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