Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Crossing the line - in- and outside of my comfort zone

At work I am part of a fantastic team of wonderfully crazy people that operates around the world - mostly in the USA, Europe, India, Australia, China and Japan. As you can imagine, we do not see each other often and work together mostly virtually. That means that we are using tools like IP phones, sharing software that allows to see each others desktop or even video conference systems.

Occasions where the complete team comes together are very rare, but with the European team we manage to meet every couple of  months - if possible at some new and interesting location like now in Budapest - and it is always SO MUCH FUN!

Working together virtually and still being a team needs a lot of energy, a lot of attention for each other and a lot of communication - and it is not easy. To see each other face to face is very important to make it work and we try to include team building activities and a good portion of fun together into our meetings.

This time we had additionally to our absolutely legendary evening events some very interesting activities planned, which helped me to learn quite a bit about myself and where my comfort zone is - and where not.

Inside of my comfort zone

We want to establish a culture of "Thank You" in our company and we try to make it a habit that every time we meet, everybody gets two "Thank You" cards that should be used for two selected colleagues who were especially helpful in the last couple of weeks. It is important to do that relatively often because it allows you to really react on recent situations and not just thank the people you usually work with all the time. I received 4 cards and that is a lot. I keep them and feel really blessed with the messages I got.

Then we played a game that sounded a bit silly in the first moment. Everybody would get a colored sheet of paper taped on the back and then we would all get pens and run around leaving messages on each others back. Random messages, which could be but did not have  to be work related.
In the first moment we were alle like "Really? Isn't that a bit childish?", but some music helped to get started and with in five minutes the place was a laughing mess of people running after each other with pens. It turned out to be a fantastic idea and almost everybody I talked to kept his sheet after the action was over. 

My sheet is a cute mixture of sweet personal and work related messages, key words like "blogger" and even three hockey related notes:

1) Go Wings - easy to track back to my friend and colleague Michael from Detroit. At that time the Pens and the Wings were both struggling but in. Now both are out.
2) One is  a funny puck-on-ice drawing decorated with "Penguins" ... I guess that is the work of the only other Pens fan in my team, but I do not know
3) And a very friendly soul, who obviously caught my post game 3 depression gave his / hers best to cheer me up and just wrote "Stanley Cup 2013" ... I hope so, my friend, I hope so.

All together this was so much fun and so nice. Showing appreciation for each other and getting this kind of feedback is definitely something that is deeply INSIDE MY COMFORTZONE.

This is the sheet that was taped to my back for my colleagues to leave messages together with the "Thank You" cards.

Outside of my comfort zone

On our last day after a (sadly too short) city walk we could choose between 2 activities that would allow us to do things we usually do not do in our every day life.

The first option was a quad ralley. I sure would have had fun driving a quad, but the word "ralley" scared me a bit since I know our crew and I was pretty sure that I would break my neck during the wild competition. I later heard that it was for real a quite slow thing and absolutely no wild ralley, but okay ... I did not go for that one.

The second option was a shooting session. We would drive to a shooting range outside Budapest and shoot with selected pistols and guns assisted by local trainers.
I would never ever have thought of trying this myself, but it sounded like a good oportunity to do something completely different and make a new experience. I was kind of curious how it feels to shoot a real weapon and had no idea what to expect.

At the shooting range we got instructions - at first all together and then again individually at the stand. Everybody  - the trainers and the girls from the travel agency, who had arranged it and had done already some shooting session at the range - assured us that it is actually fun. Everybody would come out with a huge grin and happy with the special experience. And indeed - the group that went before me (there were three stands next to each other each with its own trainer to guide us and take care for safety) came out and was all "Wooohooo - I made and it was cool."

So I took the protection glasses and hearing protector and walked to the stand. Three different weapons were waiting for me. A smaller silver pistol - relatively light. A black half automatic - significantly heavier. And finally something that looked like a revolver from a western movie and would for real make a little explosion above your hand when fired. 

I took the light silver pistol following the instructions of the trainer for the correct way to hold and shoot it - and fired.

Damn ... that was the WORST feeling ever.

I felt like dropping the weapon immediatly, but how to communicate with a Hungarian trainer and big hearing protection? My helpless gestures were misinterpreted as asking for help to do it right because I did not exactly hit the black shape of a person on the paper in front of me. So I was explained again how to aim correctly. I felt like crying, but I decided to just do it and get it behind me.
The half automatic was next and it was even worse than the silverish one because it was so much stronger. I could barely control the push back with my shaking hands.
The final revolver then was a bit better. It had a huge bore and is for sure very dangerous but the manual handling and the funky explosion made it a bit easier for me.

Then it was over. I just ran out, got rid of the glasses and hearing protection and handed over for the next one waiting excitedly in line. I felt like throwing up and had to catch some breath looking into curious faces asking "And? Isn't it great?" I could just answer "No, this was one of the most horrible things I ever did in my life and I will never ever do that again." I can tell you that people were really surprised. I do not know exactly because I had to leave early for the aiport, but as far as I heard I was the only one hating it so much although some of the other girls felt pretty uncomfortable as well.

We also had the chance to try a pumpgun and although this was supposed to be "even more fun" I turned that down - I had more than enough.

I tried to find out what I hated so much about it. I had no problems to target the black figur on the sheet of paper. I am rational enough to be clear that this was just sports and that this was a sheet of paper and no person. But when I fired I so intensly felt the enormous, destructive power of the weapons that it hit me totally offguard. I had not expected to feel like that. Additionally - being a total  newbie - I did not feel like I would control the weapons a lot but much more them controlling me although that was not the case. 

Don't get me wrong - I do not judge anybody who had fun. We did that in a very safe enviroment, it was nothing brutal or dangerous about it and I can imagine how exactly what scared me could be fun for others.
This is just my personal, emotional state. I also do not regret that I did it. It was an important experience and I learned a lot about me and what I am able to do and what not. And you know what? I kind of like the result. 

So lesson learned for that day:  I do not want to shoot with real weapons ever again and shooting is far OUTSIDE OF MY COMFORTZONE.

This is my s
hooting sheet. The holes in the white are my first tries - later I got "better" - whatever that means:

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