The high dive

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You may or may not know this about me, but I was a springboard diver for about 10 years - from about the age of 12 until I graduated from the University of Iowa. I've been thinking lately about the sport and some of the lessons it taught me, most likely because my parents recently moved out of their house of 25 years and have steadily been giving me pictures and other things I left in the house.

In particular though, I've been thinking about how when we push ourselves to another level, it almost immediately makes us better at what we're currently doing. Obvious right? Maybe.

In the sport of diving, there are three levels of competition: the one meter springboard, the three meter springboard, and then the ten meter platform. I was almost exclusively a springboard diver, with an occasional exercise happening on the platform. One thing I recall very clearly is how much easier the one meter seemed once I started practicing on the three meter. Maybe easier isn't exactly the right word, but less scary for sure.

Smashing face first into the water or waxing out on your back isn't a joy on the one meter, but once you encounter that on the three meter it's really no big deal. Most importantly though you begin to overcome a lot of your fear, which in turn gives you a lot of confidence. And once you have less fear and more confidence, good things are bound to happen.

The problem I think we run into sometimes is that we mistakenly believe we shouldn't go to the next level - whatever that level may be - until we master what we're currently doing. Thinking things such as "I'm not going to write that novel until I've perfected my short stories", or "I'm not going to talk in front of 100 people until I've mastered speaking in front of ten", or "I'm not going to start my own business until I have another year of experience."

Here's the secret: you don't master any level until you push yourself at the next level.

Any great artist, great athlete, great thinker, or great worker is great at what they do now, because they found a way to push themselves at whatever their next level was.

DJ Phillips may not love every song he's writing in a 30 day period, and Cheryl Sterling may not like every self portrait she took for 30 days, but I guarantee that a year from now when they go to create something, it'll feel easier.

So whatever it is that you're working on, if you want to become better at it, look for the next level. It's okay if you don't master it. Just by practicing in that next space, you'll become much better at what you're already working on.

Go on, jump off the high dive!