Wednesday, November 26th, 2014

Courage at Great Heights

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Dawn Terwilliger up a poleI recently witnessed something extraordinarily inspiring that I wanted to share with you.

If you have ever said to yourself or someone else, “that’s impossible?” Then this will help you create a new model of possibility.

Having been part of several powerful team building and leadership trainings, I have had many opportunities to participate in some very challenging ropes course activities and have witnessed countless breakthroughs as a result.

On this particular occasion the course included what is known as the “leap of faith” which involves climbing 50 feet up a narrow telephone pole, having to pull yourself up and stand on the 12 inch top than leap between 5 and 8 feet to a free floating trapeze bar. It is an achievement that would be difficult for even a seasoned circus performer.

Many members of our team including myself were able to scale the daunting pole and successfully fly through the air and grab the trapeze bar which appeared to be more like 20 feet away and some were not as successful.

The last person to go was a woman who while watching the challenge being successfully accomplished by many of her team mates kept repeating to herself, “this is impossible, I can’t do it.”

We all felt fear but she had massive anxiety about the task and with good reason. On top of the fact that she had not exercised for years and had allowed herself to gain a massive amount of unhealthy weight (she was well over 300 lbs) she has also lived with a terrifying fear of heights all her life.

With the encouragement of her team mates she ultimately made the decision to give it a try. It was amazing. She struggled for almost 20 minutes to get to the top, all the while her team members shouting and encouraging her to not give up. I had been to the top and I knew how difficult it was to reach and how scary it was to jump. Watching her struggle with tears in her eyes I wanted to tell her that it was OK and that she could just come on back down. I knew however what she would lose if she did. So instead I joined my teammates in yelling, “You can do it! Just one more step– four more inches.”

I know she thought about quitting… giving up.

Instead she fought for every inch; pole wobbling, arms and legs trembling she took that painfully difficult final step and stood upright on the very top of the pole now some 50 plus feet in the sky.

We had just witnessed the impossible and as a result spontaneously erupted into a mass cheer that must have been heard for miles.

Then there was silence.

As she stood arms stretched out looking out at the trapeze bar some five feet away my throat tightened and tears came rolling down my face. My climbing to the top and finally jumping was indeed powerful and gutsy but this woman was no Mr. America– she was not an athlete and she was deathly afraid.

Somehow she not only found the super human physical strength but also the will, determination, and COURAGE to climb to the top. When she finally jumped (supported by a bolle wire) it was like time stood still and we all stopped breathing for that moment.

When she was finally lowered to the ground she was greeted by of some 25 cheering, screaming, and crying, friends and teammates I had to give her a big hug and thank her for what she did for me and the rest of us and for having the courage to reach well beyond her perceived limitations.

She told me that she could not have done it without the encouragement of her team and our belief that she could do it. Although she was ultimately not able to hold on to the trapeze bar, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that she was able to overcome her fears and limiting beliefs about what she could and couldn’t do and that she touched what was at one time believed to be impossible to reach.

I have no doubt that she, like you, will be successful at achieving her ultimate goal no matter what it may be.

I’m proud to be on your team… who else is on your team? Who else have you enlisted? Let other people you trust and who care about you share in your success… let them be inspired at knowing you did it and that they, in some small or large way helped you achieve it.

Tom Terwilliger

 

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