The most important lesson we learned at the annual LadyDrinks extreme sports challenge Saturday



Seven women and one lucky guy participated in the annual LadyDrinks extreme sports challenge this weekend, designed to push participants outside their comfort zone, and into a state called  ‘optimal anxiety’

The instructor said ‘listen to me.’
Each year as businesswomen we do one ‘outside your comfort zone’ sports challenge to see what else might be possible for us. Last year, we went skydiving with LD member and pro skydiver Melanie Curtis. This year’s pick was New York Trapeze school on the West Side Highway of Manhattan.

First of all, I was running on sheer adrenaline and fumes when I woke up Saturday morning. I spent under 12 hours in Chicago Thursday, hosting LadyDrinks. Album here. Only to catch the 6am United flight Friday to attend a partnered all day summit with the Ellevate Network.

The television person in me had back timed from the time I expected to be on-site at New York Trapeze School. 6am. Get up. Brush teeth. 6:15am Get dressed in my snazzy Carbon 38 outfit. Sneakers. Socks. Sunblock. Hat for sun protection. Pack backpack. 6:30am Arrive at local Dunkin Donuts to place order for a box of coffee, almond milk, regular milk, donuts, muffins, bagels and two kinds of cream cheese. 7am call Uber to get to Trapeze school. 7:20 arrive at front door of New York Trapeze School and send directions to attendees on Whatsapp group on how to find the rooftop.

The weather was in my favor Saturday. The sun warm on my bare shoulders after three days of incessant rain. My friend Shruti was the first to arrive. I like that she’s always on time. Then the others. Soon all 11 were in place for class.

The lead instructor was a strong African American man, completely unenthused by my sharing about LadyDrinks and why we were engaging in this activity today. He was frankly bored by it all. He toggled quickly and walked us through important ways we should hold our bodies when hanging from the trapeze bar. “Like a banana.”  He walked us through critical commands. “What do you do when I say ‘Ready!'” Bend my knees on the edge of the platform. “What do you do when I say ‘Hep!”

We all put our names on the white board for the order in which we would go. “Wait! Who is the leader of this group?” All of a sudden he’s interested. “Joya!” everyone said in chorus. I’ll own that. I orchestrated this whole cockamamie activity. I marched up to the ladder and tethered in. I was confident the first 10 rungs. The ladder was jerry rigged to a second ladder in order to achieve the heights needed to touch the platform. As I gained altitude, the fear kicked in. I was high up. What if my legs got tangled in the tether and I misstepped on this skinny and unforgiving ladder? How hard would the fall be? “One rung at a time Joya” I breathed through the fear. “One rung at a time. That’s all you need to worry about.”
Once I reached the platform, I had to grip onto a third ladder and hoist myself up. I was shaking. From this height, all of lower Manhattan was to my left. The Hudson and all of New Jersey was to my right.

The instructor only had one ask. “Listen to me.” I was so terrified, the fear earmuff-ed his commands. I was deaf to anything he was saying. Suddenly, the fear turned to rage. I hate this about myself. I was raised by an immigrant mother whose whole life was a big envelope of fear. She led with it. And she infused it into everything she did, including raising me. As an adult, I was determined to kick fear in the face.  ^&* it. I’m doing this. “I’m pushing through this fear,” I muttered to myself.

“READY!” I bent my knees, and went out on the trapeze bar and hung like a monkey.  “HEP!” I landed in the net.  Ultimately, Saturday, I didn’t do the upside down hang nor the catch. I was a little envious because everyone else flew through the air like a Flying Wallenda and did all the stunts. Video here Shruti remarked, “You’re overthinking it.” Afterwards, we sat in a circle and shared what came up for us doing this extreme activity. There were some really honest shares and some tears.

The most important takeaway, we all concluded, was how important ‘listening’ is. That can be in the context of a business meeting, speaking to a potential client, or engaging at a networking event. How many times have we heard how important it is to be an active listener? How many times have we ignored it.? I know, I’m chronically preparing my next question as I’m listening to someone speak. The other important takeaway is to “LET GO!” There is so much wonderful on the other side of fear.

Tomorrow, June 26th at 6:30pm I’m in conversation with LadyDrinks Member and author Divya Sood at the bookstore Shakespeare & Co, as she launches her third book “Find Someone to Love.” She is our member spotlight for the week. Read more about her here


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