There’s something comforting about staying in our cozy little bubbles, where everything is familiar and predictable. But lately I’ve learned that it’s equally important to step out of that bubble and embrace challenges time to time, that push us to our limits.
Last one year have been a crazy ride. I have intentionally put myself in discomforting and unusual situations, both physically and mentally. And it has been rather surprising.
I am usually a very relaxed person, from personal stuff to business, every where I have been very relaxed for quite some now. I have been a hustler too, but after some initial grinding, I kind of stepped back a bit. Everything seemed to be in a nice balance. I had barely anything to complain about, not that I do when there is.
At the same time, it felt like hitting a plateau. So, I decided to do new things.
For me, doing new things often involves working on new businesses, projects. Traveling and exploring is something I do very often, so they don’t really count as something completely new. But there’s this rush whenever I start a new venture. The thrill of building something from the ground up drives me a lot.
And I have built few things in my short life. But most of them almost always revolved around web. Only venture(!) I can think of that I did offline was back in Class 5, when I started renting out my cricket bat. I saw an opportunity to make some bucks, I took it. Probably one of the first money making thing I did. From 2006, it was all about web. That was year when I created my first website.
So, being in this virtual world for almost 16 years, I decided it was time to step out a little bit. Before I could look into what I could do outside, my friends came up with an idea to start a construction company. This is something completely out of my wheelhouse. Usually, I would have just said no, as I have multiple times before, to other ideas. But this time, without even thinking much, I just said “let’s do it”.
Thus began the summer of discomfort and hardship.
Usually, every year I visit at least few states in the summer. I have been here in the states for 6 years now, and so far I have been to 22 states. Last summer was different. I went to Florida for a week and that was it.
Within couple of days of returning to Brooklyn, we started on our first project and I took the responsibility to supervise the project. I had to look over 15-20 people every day for almost 4 months. These are people who come from very different walks of lives. All of them much older than me, definitely much experienced than me. I literally went there with zero knowledge or experience.
I have this irrational belief that I can figure things out, no matter what it is. So, having no knowledge or experience sure made me nervous, but I was adamant I would figure it out.
One of my strength in my mind was – I have managed people before. But as soon as the project started, I learned immediately that managing software engineers and construction workers is miles apart. I almost had to rewrite all the rules in my head. It took me a while to understand how to communicate with them, how to understand their strength, their weaknesses and how to allocate work based on that. And that in return helped me to fix few of my issues.
If any hesitation of talking to people, confronting people I had before – they have completely went away. I have learned to be more direct. If you see something, you gotta say something. That’s one of the first things I learned. This has impacted my personal life too. I don’t beat around the bush anymore, or I try not to.
Construction sites are full of uncertainties. And no matter how much you try to keep things in track and predict how your day is gonna be, there will always be something that comes up without you ever thinking about it. From someone making a minor mistake in reading drawings, to someone getting hurt – a lot of things can happen.
This worked for me in two ways. Eventually, I developed a tolerance for uncertainty and I learned that adapting to new circumstances is crucial for staying afloat.
These two things are helping a lot right now. While a lot of my peers in software industry is going through “AI anxiety” right now, I am being somewhat calm. I can see what I have to do to stay afloat, and what opportunities lie ahead.
I am not shaken easily now. And this is not something that I just had. I had to build it up inside me, being in those uncomfortable situations. Staying calm in the face of uncertainty, adversity or hardship has to be one of the most important things I have learned so far in my life.
In my learning I have understood one thing – adaptability is like a muscle that grows stronger with practice. You can not just think about it and expect it to happen. You actually have to go through those uncomfortable situations, again and again.
Difficult emotions often arise when we are faced with the unknown. Initially, these feelings of anxiety, and frustration can be very overwhelming. But as I continued to push my boundaries, I began to better understand my emotional triggers and reactions.
Along with that comes the understanding that not everything requires a reaction. Not every situation requires a response, and learning to discern when to engage and when to step back can be a very powerful tool.
It involves pausing, reflecting, and assessing whether the reaction is truly necessary or beneficial.
This was a mistake I made in the initial days. I have reacted to things in ways which only made it harder for others to resolve something. All while, it was something very trivial.
Sometimes, the most powerful response is no response at all.
As I practiced non-reaction more and more, I developed one thing – self-regulation. This is something I haven’t done that often, at least not consciously. Having self-regulation comes with layers of benefits. From thinking objectively, to have control over certain bad habits and/or addictions, it has been quite impactful.
As I faced and overcame my own struggles, I became more aware of the challenges others might be facing. It’s very easy to judge someone on the work they are doing or how they are operating generally in life. But often times there’s more to it than meets the eye.
Empathy and compassion are much more essential than they are thought to be. Specially in construction or similar work, workers are just seen as, well workers. Nothing else. There’s no personal connections made there.
I tried to talk to them personally, in groups, while having coffee breaks or lunch breaks. And all of them had amazing stories. Struggles you never heard of and you never will.
This newfound understanding enabled me to develop deeper connections and support networks.
By sharing my experiences and listening to the stories of others, I’ve been able to offer encouragement and guidance, and in turn, receive support when needed.
This sense of community and interconnectedness has been instrumental in fostering my mental resilience.
As I confronted my short-comings and pushed my limits, I realized that I was capable of achieving far more than I initially believed. This process of self-discovery involved learning new skills, facing my fears, and building the courage to take calculated risks within short time-frames.
A lot of these changes were psychological or mental initially. But the realization of being able to do more, sparked the physical aspects of it too.
Sitting in front of computer for more than a decade and a half, surely hasn’t done anything good for my body. Once I started reflecting on the physical changes, I began to do more to push myself physically.
On a good day, I would walk may be 4000-6000 steps a day. On the construction site, I was doing 30,000+ a day. I didn’t notice that initially as I was more occupied with the emotional and psychological aspect of it. Once I noticed it, I started doing more intentionally. I stopped taking elevators. There have been days where I went up 6-7 floors 7-8 times a day.
Next, I started doing some of the handy works, just to see how it feels. I carried 80-pounds cement bags, I carried concrete blocks, I carried bundles of rebars, all in my pursuit to see how much I could push myself.
To take things further, I started working out. Of course, my friend Sudipto has been an inspiration. I have admired his dedication for a very long time.
To my surprise, the more I pushed, the more I was able to do. It was almost a revelation to see how much my body could do.
It all came full-circle when I realized how mental resilience and physical health are intimately intertwined, with each influencing the other in significant ways.
The connection between mental resilience and physical health is a two-way street, with each aspect reinforcing and supporting the other.
By cultivating mental resilience, you can more effectively manage stress, overcome physical challenges, and maintain a healthy lifestyle. In turn, a healthy body can contribute to improved mood, self-confidence, and further enhancing mental resilience.
And in both cases, in my experiences, growth only comes when you push a little bit over the line every time, when you get out the bubble a little bit.
I encourage you to embrace discomfort, face your fears, and practice empathy and compassion.
Explore the endless possibilities that await you beyond your comfort zone.
I hope you will be as surprised as I was.