At the start of the movie Dead Poet’s Society Mr. Keating says, “Carpe Diem, lads. Seize the day, make your lives extraordinary.” The scene is set in front of photos of men who died in the First World War, and he’s saying to them, “Don’t be boring. Don’t just waste your life, make your life extraordinary. Live on the edge.“
But the truth is in life these days we get into the day-to-day grind of raising families or a busy job or something. One of the things that can creep in is this comfort zone, which acts like a bubble. It can be hard to break out of, because it’s just so easy to stay just where you are and not really ever do something a little bit on the edge.
What we mean by living on the edge though, is not necessarily doing something crazy or dangerous. What it really means is to do things that give you significant energy, that break you from the normal bubble and put you into a space that I just kicks you out of the comfort zone.
And it’s not all the time, but it’s just things that put adrenaline back in the bloodstream.
There’s something in is all of us that’s calling us not to stay in our comfort zone constantly, to keep on going to the edge, whether in being the physical sense in our fitness, in our relationships.
It says, “I’m happy with being me, but I want to get out of the grand stand every now and then and get onto the playing field. I want to be stretching the boundary.” Because we know we don’t grow as a person in our own comfort zone. Edge work is where we actually grow. It’s when you run that extra kilometre, where you do that extra session at the gym, when you go into a difficult conversation. It’s those edge times when we actually grow.
There’s a great questions we should all ask ourselves:
“what does it mean to really live?”
Only you know when you’re living, when there’s excitement in your veins leading up to an event. When you maybe get a bit nervous about something, and you know that something means a lot to you.
It might be a big game of football or a big presentation. You know that you’re being challenged, and you can feel the energy. That’s what we’re talking about here. When was the last time you had real excitement, you had adrenaline running through your body? You were thinking, “Wow, this is going to be tough, it means a lot to me.”
If you haven’t had any excitement in your life, had anything that’s pumped adrenaline into your bloodstream for a while, you haven’t been to the gym and hit the boxing bag for another five minutes beyond what you’re capable of, and really felt like at the end of the session you fell onto the floor dead with tiredness, then you haven’t lived in a while.
The edge is different for every particular kind of person. So one person’s edge may be someone else’s comfort zone, while someone else’s comfort zone might be that particular person’s edge. And it doesn’t actually matter, what actually matters is you go to your edge, whatever it is which is going to give you that quote adrenaline rush. Whatever it is that’s going to fire you up, whatever it is that’s going to make you have that sense of, “Wow.” That’s what we’re talking about here.
Living on the edge has a tiny little bit of risk in it. You’ve got to take that risk, dare a bit. It’s got adventure. It’s when someone says, “Hey Damien, do you want to go on this 85K hike?” And then they say there’s a couple of places on that hike where it’s going to be really, really… It’s a difficult kind of turf.
And a part of you is going, “Oh, I’m not sure.” Another part of you says, “Risk it, do it, risk it, do it.”
We’re not talking here about big hairy audacious goals it might take a couple of years achieve. This is just these things that you have in your life regularly. So maybe you don’t have anything at the moment, right? Pick something, either new or something you’ve done before. Make sure it’s got you thinking, “Oh, that’s going to get me a bit excited.”
Make it competitive or have some stakes to it. Then…Just do it.
Don’t think about it. Book the flight, arrange the meeting, commit publicly. Go to whatever event it is. Get out there and just do it. This isn’t complex.
Greg’s Kung Fu Story:
In 2007 I made a decision that I would try and learn a martial art. I’d never done any before, and so I studied a little bit of Shaolin Kung Fu, right? In Brisbane at a place in Paddington. And I remember before going thinking, “Oh man, I’m going to look like such a tool. I know nothing about this. This is just going to be terrible.”
But one of the wonderful things about martial arts is it constantly keeps you on the edge, for two reasons. There’s always another belt in the distance that you are trying get to. So not only are you turning up to practise towards an outcome, to get graded you’ve got to do normally a fist form, but then you’ve got to normally do some sparring or a fight. And it’s that thing that’s on the horizon which keeps the energy flowing, keeps you moving. And if you’ve ever done anything like that before, you’ll know what it means to step into a ring and to be tested to your best ability.
And it just gives you life. You’re excited for days and days and even weeks after, it’s just brilliant.
A year later I was training in remote China in a Shaolin academy. My master came up to me one day and he said, “You’re about to leave the academy. We want you to have a fight. We want you to actually have a fight in the ring, no holds barred, there’s no padding, there’s no head gear, it’s a proper fight.” And I tell you what, when he said that to me I was pretty certain I didn’t want to do it, but the public pressure of saying no was too much so I agreed to it.
Now the fight, for the week leading into it, it was hair raising because I could see the guy across the training ground that I was going to have to fight and he was fearsome. Anyway, I won’t go into the details of the fight. Needless to say it was a bloody old affair, and at the end of it I stood there, I shook hands with this other guy and we both looked at each other and I think you could probably say we both failed. Don’t know if that’s possible. Nobody won the fight. It was just one of those things.
But I remember getting to the end and going, “God, I’m so proud of the fact that I stood in that ring, and stood up to someone and had a crack.” Now regardless of the fact that I got smashed in the nose and there’s blood everywhere, it doesn’t matter. That physical pain just didn’t matter because I put myself on the line, I had a go at something. And that’s just a metaphor too, for doing a difficult presentation as well in front of a bunch of people you wouldn’t do, or offering yourself up for a keynote, or starting your own podcast or something. All these things are living on the edge.
An important thing on this, is you can’t half commit to things that are on the edge. You’ve got to really have a crack because that what makes them nerve racking. That’s what makes them exciting and adventurous, so to speak.
And part of the whole thing too is whether you succeed or not, in one way that doesn’t actually matter. If I set myself a goal, it’s the setting of the goal, the walking of the path, that’s what’s the important thing. And you may not achieve exactly what you set out to, but you’re going to achieve something really, really good. Just get out there.
And once you commit, once you say, “I’m just going to actually do it.” Once you, whether it was book the flight, join the actual class, you’ll find gifts and strengths within you you did not know you actually had. When you trust your own self, gifts and strengths and abilities that have been dormant within you are going to come to the actual fore. And all of a sudden you’re going to look back on the path you’ve walked, and go, “Wow, I did a fantastic job there.”
A challenge for all the Universal Men. And this is what we want you to do, is do a bit of an audit of your life and ask yourself, “Do I have something right now, or on the horizon that’s going to give me a real pulse of adrenaline? Something that’s adventurous, that’s difficult.”
It could be any one of the things we’ve mentioned. Pick one thing, right? And put it in your calendar, and before the end of the next 48 hours make sure it’s going to happen. Lock it in, right? Maybe it’s a public speaking gig, joining a martial art, or playing competitive football or golf, or joining a course you don’t think you should do. Do it.
Remember, “The pain of regret far exceeds the pain of failure.”
Grego and Pricey