Yes, I walked on broken glass and lived to tell about it.
Why would you do that you ask?
I am participating in a yearlong business mastermind program designed to expand my thinking and increase my results. Here I am sitting in the conference room on day two of a three day retreat. The Instructor presents the next exercise: “We are going to walk on broken glass.”
I immediately say to myself with peace and resolve, “I’m not doing that. I’m just not doing it. I don’t feel the need to do this to prove anything. I know what it is intended to do so I can just skip over this and remind myself from past experience what I need to do to overcome my fear.” At other times, I’ve broken boards with my fist and my feet. I even broke two arrows that were protruding into my neck – all without getting hurt. I have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else.
The workshop leader says, “Just sign the waiver form whether you choose to do the exercise or not. This way, if you change your mind, you (we) are covered.” I sign and walk outside where all one hundred and fifty (plus) of us are gathered in a large circle. The mood is suddenly contracted with a hint of fear and excitement. Bob, who is six feet five inches tall, and looks like a linebacker with a soft demeanor, gives us directions.
There are four stations set up with boxes that are five feet long filled with broken glass chards. Our instruction is to walk across in four measured steps while we stay focused on a word that someone else holds at the end of the walk. This word is one that each of us has written down and placed in a small frame. It’s what stands between us and our success. Mine is TRUST.
We are instructed to lay our foot flat on the glass, test it, and when okay, lift the other foot, placing weight on the first. Once the second foot is placed on a safe place lift the first foot, and so forth. If you go too fast, you will get cut. If you slide your foot once placed, you will get cut. We have two people on either side of us to help keep our balance, not to be leaned on.
I stand there calm and observant while our leader, goes first. I am inspired that she chooses to be vulnerable and do it first. This is one of my personal tenants of leadership – never ask anyone to do something you won’t do yourself. Here is where I start to entertain the idea of actually doing the exercise.
Several more people go. It just emerges from my thoughts, “I think I’ll go. I should do it. Why not?” Terror begins to creep up. I don’t spiral into thoughts but am trying to stay present observing how everyone is doing. I don’t see anyone getting hurt.
My turn comes. I walk up to the two people who will support me. I look at them and I say, “I’m terrified.” I take a deep breath. I place my hands in prayer pose for centering (I’m spiritual, not religious). I take their hands. I place my foot on the glass. Feels okay. I lift the other one. Now pressure is on my first foot. I feel something sharp penetrating the center of my foot. It doesn’t feel like it’s cutting me, but just pressure.
This first step is what you see in the photo. I am not looking straight ahead at my word. My head is tilted. I’m focused on feeling my way through this. It’s as if I am trying to listen for what my feet are telling me. I’m not going to take this foot off and turn around. The only choice is to go forward. There is no turning back. I’m Committed. Once I make this decision, I continue in a measured way aware that I am squeezing (probably too hard!) the arms of those supporting me.
I get to the other side and hug all who supported me. I discover an hour later while standing during the debrief that each foot has, what Bob calls, a dust speck of glass on it. The first one I can brush off. The second requires soaking my foot and pulling it out with a safety pin (they had no tweezers onsite!) as it got underneath the skin like a splinter. Thanks Bob. I do have points on my feet that are sore /bruised but no cuts, no blood. Bob tells me when our leader did this exercise for the first time, she got cut because she shifted her foot. There were two other people who received small cuts in our class. Somehow, I was the only one who got glass speck buried in her foot – but I made it across! I had the experience.
Tomorrow I will continue this post with what meaning I make of this experience – how I interpret it and what lesson I learned by going through it.
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