Thrive at the Edge

A couple of hundred miles into the Yukon Arctic Ultra race, it is night again. 30 degrees below. My sled slides silently behind me as I run evenly across the surface of yet another frozen lake. My early hamstring injury is holding up, with the help of a KT tape fix I found works. I eat protein- and fat-rich nuts and sausage from my side pouches. I am warm but not sweating. The aurora borealis is spreading up from the hilly horizon to cover the entire sky in green dancing flames. I am thriving at the edge.

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When there is no clear script and we get to do something new, we are at the edge. Outside our comfort zone, deep into confusion, and out to expand our flight envelope. When you are comfortable with that discomfort, you are thriving at the edge. When we keep choosing challenges slightly ahead of our skills, we discover capabilities we didn’t know we had; we get to places nobody else has been.

An arts-and-stationery company I worked with for a few years actually did it. It morphed into a toy company, adding new capabilities and technologies, expanding its sales channels, creating new designs, redefining roles and interfaces. A hundred-year-old brand based on hundred-year-old technology created new ground in the toy industry. We thrived at the edge.

In my work with organizations, the best transformations and results happen when we choose the edge. Not “we are working with you because your tools and processes have been proven to work in hundreds of other companies” but more like “we are working with you because together we will create entirely new growth”.

Back in the Arctic, the Inuit have lived for hundreds of years in one of the most challenging environments on the planet. Instead of moving to San Diego, they stayed  and developed a potent culture and many tools and skills to thrive at the edge of habitability.

Edges are everywhere to be found. Just listen to your bedrock desires: what do you really want above all else? Point your ship toward the corresponding edge. Be ready to explore, to discover, and to grow.

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