The systematic approach to learning a new adventure or extreme activity combined with the repetition of going to “the edge” to improve can sometimes almost dull the senses. In the technology industry the leading edge is referred to as the bleeding edge because of the failures along the way. But revisiting the terrain stops the bleeding. For many of us however, we simply stay well inside the comfort zone and dream of adventure.
Sometimes we have to shake off an “it is not for me” attitude and learn to get a little uncomfortable to improve at the task, whether for business, sports or relationship. Several years ago I was training for the Dakar rally, and together with my co-driver, Mick Extance, Britain’s top Dakar entrant, I ventured off to Morocco to ride the sand dunes.
In terms of flirting with the edge I have always learned to trust the person who I am being mentored by. In this instance we were on motorbikes. I had never spent a huge amount of time on motorbikes and actually raced cars. In the Dakar, Mick was going to be my co-driver. So now was the time to learn about his sport. As Britain’s top Dakar rider he had finished the Dakar 7 times and placed in the top 25.
The first real day off road we were in the Atlas mountains and had just finished breakfast when Mick suggested we go for a short ride into a nearby lake. It was a dirt trail, would only takes us 15-20 minutes and allow us to warm up off-road.
At the trail head, Mick announced he wanted no accidents. There was to be no racing. We had taken a group with us at the same time to give a few other people a similar experience. We were to ride comfortably and safely. I decided I would “follow the leader”. Believing I could do whatever he did if I stayed close enough to watch. Of course, he would do as he said, and not race!
As Mick took off, there was an initial gap and then I decided I would stay as close as possible. If Mick went over a steep drop, then I was committed and on his rear wheel. I have never been so uncomfortable in my life. What my bike did that day, I had no idea bikes could do! We flew past long lines of tourists in a convoy of Land Cruisers, I had no time to take in the scenery, it was whizzing by at an alarming rate!
Finally we arrived at a lake. I pulled up next to Mick, took my helmet off, sweat running down my forehead, arms groaning from the amount of blood pushed in to my forearms and said, “I thought you said no racing!” A big grin came across his face as he exclaimed that “You did alright there mate.” Then, I suddenly realized I could not hear any other motorbikes. We had left the rest behind and I had suddenly learned a lot about riding dirt bikes.
As the group assembled we took a short rest and rode our bikes back at the same pace. This time the pack was a little closer together but Mick and myself remained comfortable at the front although I was definitely more ragged with my riding style.
When we arrived at the trail head, we realized that the expedition photographer and his bike were not with us.
Mick looked at me, nodded back at the direction we just came from and off we went again at full tilt, this time looking over every steep drop and in deep ditches in case he had come off his bike. We returned half an hour later after a pretty thorough search to hear our photographer was well and had returned to the roadside Auberge that we had eaten at.
My “edge” was firmly established that morning. My arms were so tired after just a few hours of riding and I knew that we had two 9,000’ passes to cross later today. Mick also knew he could push me and I would respond.
Later in the day I took a couple of tumbles off the bike. I was truly riding on the edge of my own personal abilities, but I was loving it. I was finding out so much about bike control, about tire grip, braking points. I could have decided to sit at the back and enjoy the scenery, which, for many people is the experience they are looking for. For me, I wanted to find out how to ride a bike fast and compete in the Sahara in a tough desert race. What I learned here could easily be translated to a car. Learning to “flirt with the edge” allows us to educate ourselves, innovate new technology and inventions and push the limits of our endurance.
Give it a try. In the next few days decide to flirt with your edge and see what you can take away from the experience! Whether you want to try a new activity, set a personal best in your sport or plan a new business, just take the first step,make a commitment and learn to visit the edge of your comfort zone once in a while.
Mark is a Keynote Speaker, Trainer and Adventurer. To enquire about a speaking engagement or to sign up for one of his free courses, visit www.markjenningsbates.com