Racing to the Next Level

Updated: Aug 26, 2019

I think we've all experienced this feeling as a kid. You grow up to be a teenager, hormones are raging and your perception of life is changing then suddenly you want out. You want to get an apartment by yourself, run away from your family, and create a life for yourself. I think many of us understand this adolescent phenomena of wanting to just go and feeling like you've got all the tools you need to succeed in the world.

Adults, at this point, scoff at this idea. You're a seasoned adult and know that the world isn't as easy as their innocent brains think it is. Figuring out life is filled with pain, awkwardness, and isn't usually as predictable as we try to make it. We see this as arrogance from our children, thinking they know everything there is to know about life. But I wonder, have many of us shown that we're any different or have grown from this perspective?

Throughout our lives we're facing new topics and challenges as we continue to grow as adults. We learn about relationships, develop skills, typology, personal growth, adopt a religion or spirituality and introduce all sorts of new ideas into our lives. At any point we could feel as though we've reached a pinnacle of understanding and assume we've learned everything there is to know. Certainty sets in as if you're prepared for any challenge that will come your way be it through physical skills, knowledge or God's got it. Is this any different than a teenager wanting to leave home with their security blanket and cell phone in hand expecting to find a charger in a tent somewhere?

That's not to suggest that we shouldn't be brave and punch above our weight nor should we become rigid in the other direction and never try anything scary. The enemy here is arrogance. And arrogance will leave you face down on the boxing mat if you try to punch above your weight without assessing your opponent and comparing it to where you are. That sometimes means changing your weight class, learning new drills, and perhaps having to burn it all down to start again.

Anyone who knows video games understands that the next level is often designed with the idea that the further you go on your journey, the more difficult it is going to become. Without the proper gear and powerups the path forward may be impossible. And sometimes we don't know what gear we need until we come face to face with the monster. The humility to go back a room or two to collect what you need will save your life.

Yet, in life, we learn a tool, skill, or improve our overall intelligence and assume that we have everything we need for any upcoming situation, we don't go back or go deeper to level up our character but instead go straight to hard stuff, fail then judge ourselves, hit reset as if it didn't happen or blame the opposition for not being what you expected.

There are a number of us who value intelligence growth. Books, videos, skills all day long. Preparing for life experience without needing to experience life or dig deep into ourselves. We know, we got this. But the challenge of perceived intelligence and certainty is the notion that greater intelligence means you are not susceptible to suggestion and danger or that you won't need to confront either of those anymore. Truth is, unless you know the secrets of the trick, slight of hand will always work. It doesn't matter how smart you are.

Most adolescents are used to seeing what's behind the curtain, being taken care of, used to knowing, used to having life go their way. I don't see how that's any different than feeling certain of who you are, what the correct religion is, the exact right growth path, or how a business should be run. The challenges of the next level likely won't equal the challenges you've already faced. To use the wrong weapon is to rely on your own dissonance, denial, and to live on autopilot.

The hero's journey is often a tale of bravery. Receiving the hero's call and jumping into action despite the dangers ahead. Meek heroes learn to be brave and experience new adventures for the sake of their growth. Arrogant heroes tend to go through a path of learning humility and respect for the journey, often with early defeat as the catalyst. But the core message remains the same, that the journey is filled with unique and persistent challenges that push us in ways we never suspected. And as we suspect from teenagers who want to venture into life as if they have it all figured out, our arrogance of assuming we already have everything we need without confirming it in the moment will lead to an early defeat.

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